Englewood, Colorado – December 2, 2015 – Destination Hotels – the largest operator of independent hotels in the country – releases key findings on 2016 meetings trends today from its fourth annual “State of the Meetings Industry” survey. Nearly 300 meeting planners across North America – including a varied group of corporate, association, government and independent planners, of which 53.5 percent control more than $100,000 per year in direct meeting spend for their organizations – were surveyed on how their planning duties and their meetings are changing for 2016. The following is a summary of the most significant survey results, plus front-line insight from meetings-focused executives within Destination Hotels.
Work-Life Blend at Meetings Increases Attendee Satisfaction
For the first time in years, responding planners cited recreational options at a meeting site as more important now than the previous year. Planners are looking to offer meeting attendees an opportunity to engage in leisure pursuits before, during or after a meeting in the form of a tennis outing, guided bike tour, or even a block of spa appointments set aside for attendees at a discounted rate. Attendees have even begun taking advantage of meetings by creating mini-vacations around their plans – 61 percent of planners advised that more than one in ten of their attendees arrive on-property before the meeting begins or stay on-property after, for leisure purposes.
Flexible Meeting Spaces are Important and Beneficial
Among the nearly 68 percent of respondents who ranked flexible meeting spaces at an 8, 9 or 10 in importance when choosing a meeting site, the two factors driving this need are 1) delivering information and insight at a level that tech-based meetings cannot, and 2) offering a variety in learning environment so that attendees remain stimulated. Destination Hotels fulfills these flex requirements through creative use of furniture within traditional meeting spaces (working with furniture rental companies to bring in items from beanbags to highboy chairs to allow for a variety of seating types), and offering educational sessions in nontraditional meeting spaces such as the outdoors to offer an inspiring, experiential environment that results in happier attendees.
Matching Budget with Rates is a Delicate Act
Fewer planners will have more money to put toward their events in 2016 versus last year – 31.5 percent of respondents advised their 2016 meetings budget will be higher than the previous year’s, while another 57.6 percent said their total budget will remain about the same. Last year, those figures were 37 percent and 51 percent, respectively. With rate ranking 9.19 in importance when scaling factors most critical to destination selections, the 65-straight-month gain in RevPAR for properties will leave planners even more hard-pressed to achieve the event expectations set by management. To counteract, Destination Hotels recommends meetings planners find favor with revenue managers by offering more value to the property across the various elements of a meeting by keeping as much of the food and beverage and social events on-site as possible. Another strategy Destination Hotels recommends is volume purchasing – signing on for multiple meetings to gain advantages on rates and concessions for each meeting.
The Challenge in Delivering Memorable F&B Experiences at a Reasonable Cost
With food and beverage pricing ranking as the third-most critical factor in placing meetings among survey respondents – 67.3 percent of respondents rated it either a 9 or 10 in importance – it’s no surprise that meeting RFPs typically include a request for an F&B discount. To make the most of a group’s F&B spend, Destination Hotels suggests “menu-matching,” whereby a group has meals that share many ingredients with either another on-site group’s meals or the property’s on-site restaurants. Thoughtful portioning can also help planners stay within budget – for instance, buffet displays that offer pre-plated items versus self-serve chafing dishes allow people to take only what they know they will eat. Whenever possible, interjecting locally sourced options provides an artisanal, farm-to-fork experience that allows guests to truly connect to a place.
Easily Navigable, Standardized Information
When it comes to technology that helps planners choose the site of a meeting, Destination Hotels has made big strides to meet the needs of the 41 percent of responding planners who say they most often use the internet to research and narrow down potential host properties. The 2015 Destination Hotels brand refresh included a revamped website now offers meetings-related information in a standardized way with easy navigation across all properties – for instance, floor plans, capacity charts and group menu options are consistent in appearance resulting in a seamless experience for planners across the entire portfolio of diverse, independent hotels.
Enhanced Service Initiative
Reliable consistent support from conference services and catering staffs was a common thread that appeared throughout answers to an open-ended question on the survey asking what planners most desire from the meetings properties they will use in 2016. To meet that need, Destination Hotels has built a new training program for all catering and convention employees. Launching in 2016, the Destination Hotels Event Producer Certification Program will encompass nearly three full days of education and training for every conference services and catering staffer, addressing every aspect of event planning and execution while also instilling leadership qualities so that employees take initiative on-site.
For more information or to review the full version of the whitepaper, please visit www.destinationhotels.com
In October 2015, Destination Hotels contacted 20,202 corporate, association, government and independent meeting planners, of which 295 responded to the survey.
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About Destination Hotels
Destination Hotels (Destination) is a collection of luxury and upscale independent hotels, resorts and residences across the United States. Offering authentically-immersed and enriching experiences, each property is individual at heart, yet connected by a commitment to drawing upon the best of each location. Highly distinct, the Destination experience is always memorable and matchless; guests will feel the locale in a genuine way through each property and during the engaging moments cultivated both in and outside of them. Continuously growing with more than 40 properties from coast to coast, the award-winning portfolio features 20 renowned golf courses, 20 indigenous spas, and 110 exceptional bars and restaurants. Destination Hotels are true to our place; diverse by design. For more information, visit www.destinationhotels.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Destination. Like us on Facebook: DestinationHotels.