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April 16, 2008

Benchmark Hospitality publishes top 10 global meetings trends

Benchmark Hospitality International, a leading hospitality management company which operates 30 resorts, hotels, condominium resorts and conference centers in locations throughout the United States and Asia, has announced its annual "Top 10 Meeting Trends”, as observed throughout its properties.

Trend 1 – Green Meetings, Not So "Last Year"
In less than 12 months, green issues have gone from also ran to top priority across the sector. The group claims that, “today companies within the pharmaceutical, medical, and especially government sectors as well as many others request information on green policies Up Front in their RFP's. This isn’t a polite tip-of-the-hat to former Vice President Al Gore. They’re really interested and extending a Strong Preference to green certified properties.” Unsurprisingly, the group predicts this to continue.

Trend 2 - Lightning Speed
Technology is still a high priority, and staying ahead of the game is becoming ever more difficult. It’s not easy for planners either: Who can project what new technology may emerge as the latest must-have for that executive meeting scheduled six months down the road? Wireless connectivity is now an expectation, and advanced technology like 360-degree cams is being installed in conference rooms to enable meetings to patch in persons from around the globe, and at a moment’s notice.

Trend 3 – Lap Tops in the Meeting Room
They used to be banned. Now companies are starting to encourage the use of lap tops in the meeting room – but only for note-taking or facilitator-directed research! Blending keyboards and the meeting is about maximising learning – it’s not a "break" to catch up on email. It’s also a nod to going "green" … typing notes into a laptop uses zero paper and eliminates waste.

Trend 4 – Save a Forest
More than 80% of RFPs, proposals and contracts are now delivered and returned online. The upside is ease of communications and resources conservation. The downside? Response, today, is now expected in real time … or at the very least, by the close of the business day!

Trend 5 – They’re Back … and Headed for the Break
Health is back on the agenda. Choice, variety, selection – it’s all still important, but the requests to "make sure it’s healthy" have come back strong and "low carb" is not the only criterion.

Trend 6 - Teambuilding Has Legs
From the traditional to culinary cook offs to white-water rafting, teambuilding activities as part of a meeting are more popular than ever.

These initiatives are now often driven by the destination and the preference is for outdoor, physical activities. Caving, spelunking, rock climbing. In an urban setting, teambuilding may turn a bit more cerebral.

Trend 7 – Meeting Package Pricing Solid
Fewer meetings with a greater number of attendees per meeting, for enhanced cost efficiencies, is the current trend in the marketplace. Meeting package pricing, however, remains solid.

The demand for the meeting packages – and Benchmark’s branded meeting product, the Benchmark Conference Plan – is as strong for 2008 as it was throughout 2007. Why, because in times of economic and political uncertainty, the desire for productive all-inclusive meeting experiences with no hidden costs intensifies and interest in value for the meeting dollar escalates.

Trend 8 – It’s Never Been More Critical to be Current! Here’s Why.
Speed, fueled by the global information flow at the push of a button, has made industry information more available than ever before, and the need to remain "current" never more important -- or easy to achieve. Vigilant monitoring of industry segments delivering business to your property is no longer just "a good thing" … it’s a necessity!

Want to maximize opportunities in this climate? Watch your industry segments. Speak their current language. Stay on top of their product pipeline. "Listen in" on pertinent blogs and popular social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube and MySpace, which are increasingly being used as communications tools by business. Then leap at opportunities before the competition has even booted up their computer for the day.

Trend 9 – What’s Hot in Recreation? Look Around You
While getting a dose of well-being at the spa is strong for women and growing for men, what seems to be evolving in recreation is a desire to experience all that a destination has to offer.

Walking & biking through natural forests, touring historic sites, climbing mountains and mesas, descending into canyons, and even shopping – activities once reserved for personal time only are now being encouraged as part of the group experience. This means buyers are looking to purchase a lot more than bricks, mortar, food and service, they’re seeking an entire destination meeting experience.

Trend 10 – Interactive Event Websites … Meeting Blogs taken to the next level?
Interactive event websites are on the up. These websites are set up by group leaders for a particular meeting – and designed for conference attendees to reference before the meeting begins, and throughout conference as a review of the material discussed during the day. Another benefit is that the sites enables feedback and continued group interaction after hours by contributing to a dialog – or meeting blog. And they’re a terrific "green" alternative to copious amounts of meeting handouts.

Bonus Trend 1 – Latin America Rising

Latin America is on the rise and doing so at a much swifter pace than most realise. Given geographic proximity, growing business climates throughout the region, a ratcheting up in demand for corporate meetings, and the movement toward recognizing all the Americas as One, Latin America represents enormous opportunity for the meetings industry, for planners and suppliers. It’s clearly not just for incentive groups anymore.

Bonus Trend 2 – Japan Also Rises
Benchmark introduced the Conference Center Concept to Japan 15 years ago. Interest in conference centers is now through the roof and growing at a much swifter pace than in many other established regions in the world. Corporate Japan is actively embracing the meetings concept that Europe and America fell in love with over a quarter century ago.

Proposals for new purpose-built conference centers in Japan are surfacing every day and the country is projected to lead the concept as it migrates throughout Asia.

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