The winds of change are slowly but surely sculpting the competitive hotel, meetings, and events landscape. A confluence of several factors, including technology and a fractured B2B hospitality space, continues to affect the meetings and events industry.
The following five group business trends are especially significant as nimble hotels need no longer remain static. They can proactively adapt to the forecast and leverage their brand recognition in their favor.
Discover five group business trends you need to know:
1. Advanced Uncertainty About Growth in Hospitality
More than half (56%) of the $316 billion U.S. meetings industry still goes to hotels. But there's an air of uncertainty pertaining to the economy, says Warren Marr, managing director at PricewaterhouseCoopers. For one thing, while CBRE predicts that 2019 will register a 10th consecutive year of growth for U.S. hotels, certain key performance indicators look anemic. The revenue per available room (revPAR) declined in 2019, breaking a 100-month upward streak. Continued trade tensions with China and increasing labor costs are also fueling uncertainty.
Hotels can be proactive and invest in strategic marketing, especially to convention and visitors bureaus and destination marketing organizations, which can be crucial allies in increasing your property's visibility. Collect and analyze data analytics to find out where your core business customers come from, and reach out strategically to build relationships that can weather any ups and downs.
2. Technology Spurs Memorable Experiences
Make room for tech-enabled meeting spaces. Immersive virtual-reality experiences that allow attendees to participate through headsets make for a more noteworthy event. A ride through a theme park or a visit to a cheesemaking facility are examples of VR experiences that stand out.
Another option is augmented reality, which is a less expensive way to deliver attention-grabbing experiences. Attendees can download a special AR app and scan the conference room to lay virtual images over real-life ones.
For example, at a recent event, Deloitte set up a simulation of a live manufacturing facility by overlaying an AR simulation over their exhibit space. Attendees used a tablet to scan the booth space and watch the manufacturing process in action. These trends have propelled meetings to move to more Instagram-worthy events and spaces. In fact, 46% of planners say social media is a top strategy for enhancing attendee experiences, according to the latest Cvent Planner Sourcing Report.
Even low-tech props such as photo booths can increase engagement through social media. Encourage planners and attendees to take selfies and share them, tagged with the event name and hashtag. Such practices draw more eyeballs to your hotel meetings portfolio. Given that event planners place a high premium on out-of-the-ordinary experiences, leverage technology such as AR and VR to deliver. Custom AR apps tailored to an event's specific themes, such as the Deloitte example above, might resonate better.
3. The Sharing Economy Nipping at Hotels’ Heels
The sharing economy model that carved its own niche in the B2C hospitality space is looking to make inroads in B2B as well. Airbnb, whose model has mainly focused on leisure travelers, acquired Gaest, an event space booking service, increasing speculation that the meetings segment of the hotel industry is the sharing economy’s next target. As a result, hoteliers must learn to compete not only with properties like theirs, but also a whole new type of venue.
Study Airbnb's and Gaest's strengths and see how you could apply those to your brand. For example, Airbnb touts staying and exploring areas “like a local” as one of its primary advantages. Could you offer hands-on experiences in the neighborhoods around your hotel? Wine tastings, historical tours, and cooking classes might win hotels points.
At the same time, being authentic to your brand is important. Understand your strengths as a hospitality venue and leverage them. Creating a hotel SWOT analysis can be an effective technique for accomplishing this. Promote the holistic, large-scale, and seamlessly executed events that your property is known for. Such events preserve your niche in the meetings sector.
4. Growing Lifestyle Brands
Lifestyle hotel brands are proliferating in response to traveler demands to mix events with tourism. To appeal to millennials in particular, these lifestyle hotels host offerings such as artisanal beer tastings and mural walks through local neighborhoods, allowing event attendees to mix business with pleasure. Look for more art immersion or curated culinary experiences to add to your hotel’s experience.
Play up concierge services. Work with your tourism bureau for ideas on how to attract this growing segment of work-plus-play event attendees.
5. The Hotel Block on the Block?
More than 70% of online shoppers compare prices before they buy, and event attendees are no different. They are increasingly using online travel agencies and home-sharing sites to search for and book accommodations at a lower rate than the hotel block. If attendee segments are becoming fractured, take strength in data that shows that great customer service continues to go a long way in gaining planner loyalty. The Cvent Planner Sourcing Report finds that a majority of planners still value professionalism in event booking dealings.
Make sure your property ranks high in online searches. Trawl through your website and tweak content so pages show up high in a Google search. You might still have competition from home-sharing sites, but catching attendees during the discovery stage might give you a greater chance at conversion. Integrate event registration and reservation. This way, attendees are more likely to book within the hotel block as soon as they register for the event. Giving attendees more choice within the hotel block also increases booking chances.
Now you know the top group business trends
Take advantage of these group business trends to ensure your property's success in the year ahead. To find out more about adapting to industry trends and other strategies for meetings and events, download Straight From Cvent CONNECT: Group Business Best Practices.
Up next, pick up new ideas for growing your group event business.