Benchmark Resorts & Hotels, a division of Benchmark Hospitality International, announces the Top Ten Meeting Trends for 2015 as observed by its properties. Benchmark Hospitality International is a leading U.S.-based hospitality management company, which operates 40 award-winning hotels, resorts, and conference centres coast to coast and offshore. Ted Davis, chief sales and marketing officer for Benchmark Hospitality, made the announcement.
“We believe 2015 is shaping up to be a great year for the meetings industry,” said Mr. Davis. “We’re seeing strong demand growth from most industry segments and spiking interest in the realm of delivering personal growth for conferees. The millennial attendees are more focused on ‘what’s in it for me personally’ and planners understand that. Attendee engagement activities and experience opportunities deliver unique possibilities for personal growth and facilitate the learning process – the byproduct being sustained interest and focus, as well as enhanced productivity.”
- Integrating adventure and inspiration – Meeting professionals today are seeking to deliver unique, creative experiences and more ROE (Return On Experience) as well as ROI with their planning and programing activities. Teambuilding and rich meeting destination immersion that extends far beyond the four walls of a hotel, resort or conference centre are in demand – and in some cases high-adrenaline adventures. The result: unique, heightened inspirational and educational takeaways that challenge a group while bringing them closer together as a cohesive and productive team.
- Happy days are here! All indicators point to 2015 being a great year for the meetings business. Group demand is strong, and rates, especially during peak periods, are trending up. The focus is on yielding high value customer profiles for high demand dates, and then filling shoulder seasons and long-term demand – six to 12 months out.
- Get social! Social media and the meetings business are now indelibly partnered, primarily through LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and smart phone apps. Facebook is still more of a personal communications platform, with planners and suppliers using LinkedIn to communicate meeting agendas and logistics, and utilizing specialized smart phone apps, Twitter and Instagram to communicate and solicit participants’ ideas and feedback during and after a meeting.
- Connectivity, CONNECTIVITY! We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again. Powerful and reliable Wi-Fi is absolutely essential to win meetings business today. Optimized bandwidth is extremely important as most conferees today come with one or two iPads, business and personal smartphones, laptops, etc. Connectively during the meeting is as important as connectivity later on in the guestroom. A property that stumbles in this area risks losing the business next year and will generate unhappy commentary on social media.
- The smart set! Smartphones drive everything about meetings today – whether an advance virtual tour of hotel and meeting facilities via FaceTime, communicating agenda and destination information through specialized apps, providing transportation logistics and updates and live streaming, or communicating during meetings with fellow attendees and session presenters. Gone forever are the days when planners asked conferees to leave their cell phone in the guestroom. Today smartphones are a critically important business tool for planners, conferees and suppliers for use during a meeting. (Just keep them on mute or vibrate!)
- The 2015 complete meeting package is completely customized! Today the complete meeting package – sacrosanct over the last four decades in the conference center business – essentially no longer exists. Every package is completely customized to the planner’s exact needs and specifications. Generally the end product has many of the package components, but these are arranged in ways meaningful to the meeting experience and no longer standardized. Benchmark Hospitality often refers to this as the Benchmark Customized Package.
- Top meeting producers for 2015 – We’ve already noted meeting demand is promising this year. Active meeting market segments contributing significant volume in 2015 include education, associations, finance, healthcare, pharmaceutical, energy-related, insurance and especially technology. An improving economy is providing a great environment for renewed investment in people, in training and development, and in strategic planning.
- Winning the business with wellness! Believe it or not, some of today’s chief meeting influencers are a property’s chef and F&B director, in addition to the overall service team! Meetings are a significant investment for companies. Proper attendee wellness and nutrition drive productivity and learning. Bringing chefs into the decision-making process with menu customization to maximize and sustain energy levels, accommodate dietary preferences, and consider allergy awareness has become a significant part of the meeting planning process, and is top-of-the-list of with planning professionals today. Having the chef involved can be critical to winning the business. When it comes to in-house teambuilding initiatives provided by a meeting venue, talented chefs hosting unique culinary programs are a major selling point to planners.
- The 21st century meeting environment – High-end boutique and personal luxury properties – once shied away from by planners – are now sought-after venues for important and especially high-level meetings, and these properties everywhere are taking notice. Many smaller high-end boutique hotels and resorts offer a highly personalized and intimate meeting experience with a unique ability to blend a client’s corporate ethos and values with the hotel’s culture for a seamless meeting experience.
- Space demand – For those meetings looking for more traditional conference venues, space clearly rules. Those conference facilities offering vast meeting space both inside and out-of-doors are in high demand for midlevel and traditional training meetings. Planners are looking for an ever growing number of breakout rooms and unique gathering places often located outside and off the beaten path to facilitate small group communication, discussion, shared experience and learning during a meeting.