Home > News Category > Destinations
Related topics: Destinations,INTERNATIONMEETINGSREVIEW, OPINION, Sustainable Meetings
December 9, 2010

David Gabri:US meeting trends you need to know

The president and chief executive of Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI) discusses upcoming key market shifts that will affect how you book your corporate events.

There is a noticeable shift occurring in the meetings industry, which you should be considering to maximise your values and those of your attendees for meetings and programmes in the US. Over the last two years, organisations became accustomed to booking whatever property they were seeking – enjoying remarkably discounted rates, with unprecedented favorable terms and conditions. This situation is largely changing, especially for programmes for 2012 and beyond. Corporate business meeting bookings have dramatically returned, gobbling up dates and space, and creating a noticeable shift in the demand for hotels and resorts – especially in the upper upscale and luxury properties.

Individual business travel has also returned to most cities, affecting the available room inventory that hotels now allocate for group booking. This, added with improved leisure travel trends (motivated by the huge values), provides strength to the resort and hotel markets going forward. So now is the time to lock in significant value opportunities for your future programmes, as the pendulum is swinging from the current buyer’s market towards one that benefits the seller.

Rates and RevPAR on the increase
Also serving as motivation to book soon is that rates at hotels and resorts in the US have bottomed out. For ALHI’s portfolio, the base was September 2009. We have already seen an increase – in some cases dramatically. Rates and revenue per available room (RevPAR) are forecasted to increase significantly this year, in 2011, and compounded with even more dramatic rises in 2012 and beyond. Additionally (and meaningfully), the shift towards a seller’s market will lead to the reduction of some of the special concessions, and will lead to the return of tighter terms and conditions – food and beverage minimums, attrition and cancellation schedules, etc.

So what is an executive and meeting professional to do? The message is don’t wait! Focus on what is on the horizon for your meetings and conventions, and lead. Take time now to think strategically to identify your programme needs for 2011, 2012 and beyond. Lock-in the programme dates and terms now, while the tide is still out, to capture exceptional values, and mitigate risks as the special deals and concessions are still available and hoteliers are still building their group business backlogs. Don’t tarry, however, as owners and operators are raising their expectations for the new year.

Rising expectations
Another trend is that the expectation of attendees is increasing. Whereas during the economic downturn attendees were more accepting, according to Meeting Professionals International (MPI) research, they are again expecting programmes to provide an experience that will meet or exceed their higher expectations and standards.

We’re not talking extravagant here. The word is ‘distinctive’. Companies and organisations are choosing distinctive venues that will provide a unique and memorable experience as they advance their business messages.

In doing so, the organisation stands out by offering a meeting solution that complements their programme, and their brand with content in an invigorating environment that promotes creativity, enthusiasm, and distinction.

Block and NSOs
Another development is that planners who had been booking room blocks conservatively to avoid attrition exposure over the last two years are amending that strategy. In our experience at ALHI, over 50% of programmes in 2010 exceeded their room blocks. Not a huge problem in 2010, but this could be a real issue in the future, especially in 2012 and beyond, as far less availability is expected. So set a realistic room block, and if necessary adjust it along the way if possible. The sooner the better, as well, to get the same rates on those last rooms.

Another market shift is that statistically there is now a greater reliance on using reliable national sales organisations (NSOs), like ALHI, by corporate meeting and association professionals in order to tackle the challenges we now face. For 2011, 78% expect the same usage, while 20% expect greater use of their trusted NSO professionals to help them with their workload and responsibilities. Still, one of the biggest advantages of working through a NSO is that they provide a one-stop shop with knowledgeable insight on multiple hotels and resorts, in a variety of destinations, with one discussion.

So take a step back to consider if you are well-prepared for the changing trends that could affect your future meetings and programme. Actions today could be the key to protecting your company’s interests for 2011 and beyond.

David Gabri is president and CEO of Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI)

What do you think of this $type?





   IT&CM China  Caribbean Meeting Incentive Travel Exchange      Gulf Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition EIBTM IBTM IMEX America  IT&CMA IT&CM China IT&CM India Conventa BTC convene  cventMBTMMA 2013 COCAL 

GLOBAL AGENCY PARTNERS                                                                                           OFFICIAL TRADE SHOW PARTNER FOR THE UK MEETINGS MARKET 

MCI Ovation Euromic