Hotel Group Meetings: Uncommon Destinations

The last few years have been good to the Hotel Group Meetings industry and that trend is expected to continue into 2019. Planners are brimming with confidence due to an expanding economy and increased job creation, which typically results in a boost in corporate meetings. Given this promising outlook, planners are trying to outdo themselves to satisfy the high expectations of their clients. One notable trend is to integrate unusual settings into the meeting experience, hosting groups at local zoos, aquariums, museums, event centers, or other outdoor facilities. The goal is to embrace uncommon destinations, rather than a typical hotel conference room, so that meetings can be memorable, unique and stimulating. This is also part of another trend which is to support all things local - from hosting events at landmark city venues; to catering through local restaurants, food trucks and microbreweries; to hosting off-site excursions like agri-tours, athletic events or scenic 5k routes. However, though the setting might be spectacular, there are still some bedrock components that must be provided to ensure a successful meeting. Free, high-speed Wi-Fi is still one of the most requested services. Planners have to make sure that a comprehensive communication infrastructure is in place so clients can easily connect - and stay connected - to the network throughout the entire meeting experience. Also, technology tools can be used to streamline the booking, registration, and check-in process, and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) materials can be utilized to ensure seamless access to conference events. There are also numerous software tools that encourage audience participation, as well as integrating polls, Q&A, surveys and games into speakers' presentations. The September Hotel Business Review will examine issues relevant to group meetings and will report on what some hotels are doing to promote this sector of their operations.

This week's Top Pick...

Zoe Connolly

When the world is facing high levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA), in part thanks to fast-changing technological, social and business environments, leaders and companies must be prepared to increasingly adjust to unanticipated events. VUCA in hospitality manifests on different levels and can affect individual hotel properties, tourism and entire companies, on a global basis. Many today would assert that, given the current geopolitical climate, the world's VUCA level has again spiked to higher than normal levels. People and corporations must increasingly adjust to unpredictable events. The hospitality sector is no exception. Read on...

Library Archives

 
Cheryl Ferguson

After three decades in the hospitality business, one of the biggest shifts I have seen has been in the role of the meeting planner. Long gone are the days of just booking a location, setting up the AV and rolling out the buffet. Today's meeting planners are big idea people, technical wizards, curators of culture and deliverers of WOW experiences. The realm of group meetings has become competitively charged, keeping planners on their toes, as they must address the rapid evolution of technology and continuous flow of new trends. Buzzwords like immersive, interactive and experiential are echoing through the hallways of hotels and dominating the meeting planning scene, as today's attendees and companies have high expectations and demand unique meaningful experiences. Here are some trends, tips and best practices for planning your next group meeting to create pathways to inspiration, memorable experiences, and lasting connections. READ MORE

Robert Post

From where we sit in the hospitality space, we are seeing the industry suffer from an over-reliance on inbound as the primary source of group business. This dependence is leading us to a commoditization within group, where rates are becoming the only differentiator between properties. But what if we could change that? What if there was another source of business that would allow hotels to reclaim their control of group sales, allow them to build stronger repeat business and ultimately a more profitable property? In this article we will explore why hotels are struggling today to meet group targets and propose alternative ways to sell group that are more profitable. READ MORE

John R. Hunt

Offsite events in the hospitality industry have become increasingly popular. While these vary in the kinds of activities and venues involved, all of them require some advance consideration of the risks that may arise. For example, some events may involve a greater danger of possible physical injuries while others may create the potential for employment-based claims. As a result, meeting planners, the company sponsoring the event, and even hotels should review these risks during the planning stage of the event along with possible insurance coverages. The following article explores this kind of assessment in greater detail. READ MORE

Peter Strebel

As meeting planners strive to integrate unusual settings into their events, more and more business is being driven away from hotels and resorts in favor of off-site venues such as zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and museums. For our industry, it presents both a challenge and an opportunity to evolve our business in a way that meets the needs of meeting planners' shifting priorities. The way to maintain their business on-property is to adapt with creative, inventive ways to ensure hotels are just as authentic to their destination as any of these alternate sites. READ MORE

Brian McSherry

In an effort to stimulate creative thinking and encourage team-building among their groups, event planners are breaking the conventional mold by moving out of traditional conference facilities and convention hotels into university lecture halls, community theaters, warehouses and even tents. They concurrently are teaming up with nonprofits in conjunction with their organizations' community outreach programs. Nontraditional venues typically present a new set of challenges for planners who, regardless of the venue, are still are expected to exceed expectations. READ MORE

Allison Handy

Because high-quality hotel meeting and conference facilities are a reliable way to generate revenue and drive food & beverage profitability, experienced hotel owners and operators understand the value of great meeting and event spaces. The question is what does a "great" meeting space look like, and how has this changed in recent times. There is no one answer, of course, but with the growing trend of businesses and leaders looking for creative and non-traditional spaces for their professional events, more hoteliers are finding innovative ways to identify or create those unique environments and memorable experiences. READ MORE

JC Chang

When planning an event, the venue is vital to creating an engaging experience for attendees. A meeting space is no longer a place for people to sit and listen to someone talking on stage; it's an opportunity to engage and transport attendees with a memorable and creative atmosphere. To cut through the "predictability," it pays to choose a fresh space that break from convention. Because client entertainment is an important part of doing business, we've identified five venue categories that work as stand-alone experiences or as part of multi-event programs to meet relationship-building, client education and ROI-generating event goals. READ MORE

Johan Terve

Meetings planners constantly up the ante with exciting conference destinations, utilizing memorable venues such as zoos, museums and outdoor locations. These uncommon venues pose a unique challenge: that of bringing must-have internet connectivity to these extraordinary locations. Wi-Fi is the way to bring in internet quickly, at reasonable cost, and with minimal effort. This article will discuss bringing a carrier class guest Wi-Fi experience to even the most uncommon of destinations. It will cover how to pop-up temporary Wi-Fi services, with and without existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, what It takes to provide "Wi-Fi in a box," and how to leverage Wi-Fi for loyalty and marketing purposes. READ MORE

Dawn McClure

Market conditions impact our planners tasked to make decisions on destinations for future meetings and events. Taking a strategic look into the cycle to source and confirm the right venue to host your program we explore best practices to find availability in first tier destinations, what to look for when you cannot find availability in your destination of choice, and other costs and concerns driven by the market to be mindful of when sourcing an upcoming program. These practices have proven results navigating the uncertain market conditions of today and the future and could set your programs up for success. READ MORE

Jessica Levin

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not just a trend, but a common business value. For over a decade, major corporations have implemented CSR initiatives focused on sustainable practices, ethical business, investment in the community, health and wellbeing of employees and general philosophies about being good citizens of the planet. For events, CSR appears in various formats like incorporating sustainable practices of going paperless or having water stations instead of plastic bottles or volunteer projects like supporting a local charity. These initiatives play a role in venue selection and offer opportunities to use non-traditional space as part of a meeting or conference. READ MORE

Sophie Neubauer

Generation Y, The Millennials. Generation Next - These are just a few of the names attributed to the generation born between 1980 and 1999. Millennials, now 19 to 39 years old, were the first to grow up in a digital world, they are the so-called digital natives. To put an entire generation into one category is a crude generalization, however, this generation does share various characteristics. They are characterized by an absolutely experienced approach to the World Wide Web and social media and they not only use but master all of the advantages of the digital world. Fears of contact with technical innovations are generally rather foreign to them and they have high expectations. They also love to travel mixing business and pleasure. This article will explain what Millennial-"Bleisure" travels expect from the hotel industry and why independent hotels are the perfect match. READ MORE

Coming up in November 2019...

Architecture & Design: Biophilic Design

The hospitality industry is constantly evolving to meet and exceed guest expectations. As a result, hotels are always on the lookout for new ways to improve the guest experience, and architecture and design is an essential part of this equation. Bold design is often the most effective way to make an exceptional first impression - an impression guests use to distinguish between brands. One design trend that is being embraced worldwide has become known as "Biophilic Design." Biophilic design is based on the concept of biophilia, which is the theory that human beings have an innate tendency to seek out nature, natural elements, and natural forms. Biophilic design is more than hotels simply adding a surplus of plants; it involves incorporating specific design elements into a hotel in order to imbue it with a sense of wellness and well-being. Some of those elements include exposure to natural lighting; views of nature and rooms with a view; natural architectural patterns; salvaged or reclaimed woods of all types; reclaimed metals; sustainably sourced stone; living green walls and vertical gardens; and direct and indirect exposure to nature. Hotels that have incorporated biophilic design into their properties are reaping the benefits associated with this trend including reduced stress responses, better air quality, lower energy costs, and more positive guest reviews. Biophilic design has also been shown to improve guest moods and to satisfy consumer demand for environmental responsibility. Savvy hotel owners and managers are aware that nature-inspired elements enhance their guests' comfort and well-being, which is why this trend is becoming so prevalent. Biophilic design is just one topic in the fields of hotel architecture and design that will be examined in the November issue of the Hotel Business Review.