In his usual fashion, Mike Dominguez did not mince words when describing the meeting industry’s recovery, comparing it to floodgates opening during his session at today’s GMID (Global Meetings Industry Day).
“I was excited to receive a note from my San Diego salesperson that their phone has been ringing off the hook since California’s announcement that they are opening to large groups. As soon as California says they’re going, we’re all going,” said the president and CEO of Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI) to the virtual GMID audience.
Dominguez laid the groundwork for global meetings industry recovery through an exploration of hotel industry data and business trends. One such example was last week’s announcement by Google CEO Sundar Pichai calling for employees to return to work in the office sooner than expected. At the end of July 2020, Google was among the first to allow employees to continue working from home through June 2021, and many other corporations soon followed. His recent move not only creates the perception of readiness to return from remote but will have an influence on companies’ readiness to return to business travel and meetings, said Dominguez.
That’s already happening in his company, ALHI, which before the pandemic saw 2.5 million group rooms booked monthly throughout its global portfolio of more than 300 luxury hotels and resorts. “We were almost 1.5 million in February of 2021,” he said. “I think that’s a surprise for some people to see that we had that many rooms are occupied right now with group business.” The fastest growth is in mainland China, the UAE and the US.
All signs are good from here on, Dominguez told the GMID audience, from the ramping up of the vaccine in the U.S. to more than 3 million doses per day to the opening of eligibility to all Americans by May. He referred to increasing cases in the Northeastern part of the country right now as “pockets.” Said Dominguez, “If you look at the fact that half of the cases right now come from in 5 states, this is not another surge.” Globally, the numbers in some EU countries, such as Italy, are improving, while others, like Sweden, are experiencing new waves of the virus. The greatest areas of concern are India and Brazil.
What does all this mean for planners? Dominguez pointed to i-Meet’s weekly planner confidence survey, which shows a consistent increase in respondents planning to resume business in Q3 (21 percent) and Q4 (35 percent). “Space is going to be at a premium,” he said. “The back half of ‘21 into ‘22 and the first half of ‘23 are getting compressed from a space standpoint because we’ve taken two-and-a-half years of meetings and crushed them into an 18-month period.”
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