Survey reveals the Meetings Industry Trends for 2018

Two Roads Hospitality, an international lifestyle company featuring an unrivaled collection of individual hotels, resorts and vacation residences, has announced the top meetings trends for 2018 based on data from its “State of the Meetings Industry” survey recently conducted.

With more than 300 corporate, association, government and independent planners contributing to its sixth-annual survey – 66 percent of whom control more than $100,000 per year in guest room, meeting space and food and beverage spend for their organizations – the hospitality leader has garnered key learnings around meeting planning, execution, and participation.

The following is a summary of the top survey results, forecasted trends for 2018, and further insight provided by executives from Two Roads Hospitality:

Overall Market Strength & Stability:  2018 will see a strong showing in corporate meeting spending.  37 percent of survey respondents said they will plan more meetings for 2018, up from 30 percent in 2017, and nearly 45 percent of survey respondents say they have more money to spend in 2018.  In addition to a higher demand, the new year will see an increase in costs and a shift in where meetings are planned.

“Meetings are seeing costs rising because there’s strong demand from the leisure and transient segments, and because much of the new hotel supply is in the economy or mid-scale categories – which tend to lack meeting facilities and the leisure amenities preferred by both planners and attendees,” says Andre Fournier, executive vice president of sales, marketing & revenue for Two Roads Hospitality.  “With 84 percent of survey respondents using upscale, upper-upscale or luxury properties, it is anticipated that these segments will experience stronger demand than supply.”

Value is a Booking Driver:  It is no surprise that value significantly informs decisions around meeting bookings, and the way it is measured is crucial for success.  The meetings industry is continuing to put great emphasis on delivering a quantifiable return on investment to both the attendees and the organization, determining this return through numbers-driven and perception-driven calculations.  In response, Two Roads has created Two Roads Event Designers (TRED), with a goal of delivering consultative, proactive service to meeting groups from the start of the event-planning process, ensuring maximum ROI.

Creating an Interactive & Inspiring Atmosphere:   More than 74 percent of those surveyed rated flexible meeting space as an 8, 9, or 10 in importance when organizing a meeting or event.   Non-traditional elements, such as an informal living-room concept or a comfortable, lounge-style seating area, and unexpected spaces like urban rooftops, are becoming commonplace.  Many meeting planners are also seeking mixed environments that blend the traditional conference table with a residential element, resulting in warm, transitional spaces that can evolve from one event to another.

“With many sessions transitioning from being instructor-led to being attendee-led, the atmosphere must be convivial like at a coffee house,” says Fournier.

Food & Beverage: Making Meetings Delicious:Food & beverage was ranked the third-most important factor in site-selection decisions, behind only location and rate, with the average rating of importance increasing from 8.60 in 2016 to 8.74 in 2017.

Fournier says: “How we source our food in the past several years has changed significantly.  Farm-to-table dining and local, organic ingredients are what our guests want. Freshness and quality are crucial, and there’s a strong demand for health-conscious cuisine from our planners. Additionally, the local emphasis gives attendees a deeper connection to the community and local culture, making it a more memorable experience that they’ll share with others.”

Venues have an opportunity to provide destination-specific F&B offerings that may not have ever been seen before by participants. Planners also know quality options will result in maximum performance for attendees.  As part of Two Roads’ TRED program is the idea of ‘food for thought’, meaning the nourishment of the body and mind is a key component to a successful event.

Meeting Planning in the Digital Age:   On-site technology plays a key role in today’s meetings, with 61 percent of planners ranking it 8, 9, or 10 in importance for the planning of 2018 meetings.  Bandwidth is the top topic of concern, especially given the robust nature of event apps, social media platforms and other web applications used.  Many Two Roads properties offer the Trust You and Zingle texting solutions, allowing planners to communicate in real time with any department on property to fulfill a need or request. Virtual reality site tours are another technology application being utilized within meeting planning by Two Roads and other hospitality companies.

“We are piloting virtual reality site tours at a number of our properties, but the product made a strong first impression when planners could experience, for instance, a 360-degree view from a scenic outdoor terrace that hosts receptions,” says Kevin Barosso, vice president of global sales for Two Roads Hospitality.

Teambuilding: Leveraging Local Experiences:   Nearly 40 percent of survey respondents rate leisure and teambuilding amenities as a 7 or higher in importance when choosing a site.  53 percent of respondents are interested in adventure or active teambuilding, while 47 percent prefer public service-focused activities.  Locality plays a key role when planning teambuilding activities and meeting breaks.  Immersive activities unique to the destination leave long-lasting impressions, further enhancing the meeting experience.   

Safety Concerns:  Safety concerns are impacting the business meeting and event industry and is a strong focus for many.  Planners are working closely with venues to ensure the safety of their guests, being well informed on security details already in place and establishing emergency prevention and response plans.

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