Benchmark Hospitality International is a leading US-based hospitality management company, which operates 35 award-winning hotels, resorts, and conference centers, including the 94-room Costa D’Este Beach Resort in Florida, owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan.
We always look forward to the company’s “Top Ten Meeting Trends” culled from all of the various properties. Here we go for 2012…
Trend #1: Luxury is Back!
Cautiously back. Luxury resorts are no longer a pariah, but corporate accountants learned a thing or two over the past couple of years and their memory is long. They are watching the meeting budget as closely as if it were 2008!
Trend #2: At last, Meeting Demand is Growing —Strongest Since 2008.
And the trend is up! This is so across all industry segments, from telecommunications, education and insurance to healthcare, energy and beyond. Booking pace remains short-term, but the “meeting sale” is over. To quote the great Etta James, At last!
Trend #3: Meeting Size is Trending Up and Space is at a Premium.
As the business climate continues to strengthen, for the first time in a long time, hotels and resorts are being more selective with the bookings they take, electing to fill their properties with larger meetings at a higher rate. Customers are finding the “no vacancy” sign posted once again for preferred space booked short term, and the flexibility of many hotels and resorts is waning with the strengthening of demand. No longer can planners expect to book a meeting 30 days out and receive premium space at bargain prices.
Trend #4: 21st Century Meeting Space is Different!
Meeting space isn’t what it used to be. It’s more creative! Today’s planners are looking for properties with outsized meeting rooms out of doors, inspirational and non-traditional nooks & crannies for small gatherings and breakouts inside, and are requesting oversized chairs and meeting accessories as an occasional alternative to ergonomics. Meetings today are just as apt to conclude around the camp fire, fire pit or bonfire, as they are at the bar!
Trend #5: Meetings Technology has Leapt into the 21st Century!
Apps downloaded on Smart phones and iPads, easily accessible mobile sites, and meeting-dedicated Facebook pages are assisting planners and conferees with the registration process, enabling quick access to event itineraries, and offering an easier method to gather feedback from participants post event. iPads have provided new meaning to the word “tablet” for note-taking during meetings and are even interfacing with traditional technology like LCD projectors. Meeting technology today is so much more than just connectivity.
Trend #6: The Meeting Package is Coming Back Strong!
Although the past few years saw a slide in demand and an unbundling of the meeting package, in 2012 planners are once again embracing the product for the value it offers the meeting budget. Instead of unbundling, planners today are more apt to request customization of the meeting package.
Trend #7: Slowly and Carefully Meeting Pricing is Trending Up.
After so many years and now with an improving economy, planners are expecting and seem prepared to see price increases in 2012. They are still looking for the best value, but pricing push-back is on the wane.
Trend #8: Teambuilding Budgets are Continuing their Comeback.
Groups are looking for unique half-day options onsite and offsite, and this is influencing site selections. Properties that come equipped with creative, built-in teambuilding opportunities such as volleyball on the beach, kitchens designed for cooking classes, mixology programs, and even golf courses on which conferees can test their mettle as a group, are winning meetings business.
Trend #9: We’ve Seen this Before, We’re Seeing it Again.
As the economy strengthens, corporate America is once more renewing its focus on ensuring it has the best trained sales and management teams possible, and so is ramping up training budgets. In an increasingly complex and competitive global economy, companies can’t afford to be anything but the best-informed and skilled in their industry. They’ve seen the impact of losing focus, and so there is money for training once again. This time around, training is more intense and meetings tend to be longer that previously. Corporate America’s competitive spirit is back, and they’re dead serious!
Trend #10: Increasingly the Meeting Destination is as Important as the Meeting Venue.
Time invested in a meeting is more valuable than ever before, and the need to counter-balance this with destination experiences is taking on new meaning. While exotic locales are thrilling to experience, that’s not what we’re talking about here. It’s about affordable destinations, perhaps closer to “home,” offering great value and a relaxed atmosphere, where business can “get done” and recreation can offer new opportunities for learning in a more relaxed setting. Whether for corporations, associations or incentive groups, destination meetings are increasingly taking center stage.
One More Trend… Socially Responsible Meetings and the Need to Give Back Remain Strong in Corporate America.
From initiatives like Clean the World to an afternoon supporting Habitat for Humanity or a local Soup Kitchen, investing in the community is as important for planners and conferees as it is for the hotel or resort serving as the meeting venue. Socially responsible meetings are no longer just about helping clean up the environment, they’re about helping corporate teams learn ways to more actively integrate into their local community and help develop and strengthen its social fabric.