Hotels vs. Meeting Planners: Who Has the Upper Hand in Today’s Economy?
For those of us immersed in the working world, you’d be hard pressed to find employees who do not have to attend at least one event or expo or seminar per year. Frankly, these brick and mortar live events are the lifeblood of many businesses, including hotel chains. But in the current world economy, who has the upper hand, hotels or meeting planners?
Here’s why, today, our vote goes to meeting planners.
OPTIONS: Over the past few years many mid-size businesses and institutions have recognized the value of holding events. Aside from the profit center it creates, it is also an economical way to raise brand awareness, allow new customers to experience your products/services, and generate ancillary revenue streams. Hotels and banquet halls used to be the only game in town. These days, big cities and podunk towns both see a variety of venues open their doors for events. Libraries, museums, rooftop pools, even meeting-friendly chain restaurants have all gotten in on the action.
LEAD TIME: Many of the aforementioned venues are willing to take on events on shorter notice than hotels. Gone are the days of lengthy RFPs (request for proposal) and dedicated sales forces. These items still exist, but there are now options where event planners can skip them entirely to create a meeting. And more venue options means greater flexibility in securing a home for your event.
FLEXIBILITY: We covered the lead time element, but there is also a growing amount of flexibility when it comes to food and drink. Hotels will often discount events if food and beverage are served in the same room. Many millennials and Gen Xers embrace this approach, whereas some members of older generations expect and appreciate being ushered from room to room. Hey, it is a change of scenery. But at what price?
TECHNOLOGY: Even the best in-person events demand that certain segments be able to access the show (or materials) remotely. Inexpensive options such as Join.me or Google Hangouts have made screen sharing incredibly simplistic, allowing even the technophobe event planner the ability to embrace attendees’ digital needs.
This is not to say that hotels are not making strides to win back meeting planning business. A host of digital tools is now available that allow chains to customize and manage the entire event process. There’s also the issue of training. Many chains offer unparalleled customer service experiences when compared to smaller venues, particularly the ones that take on events “on the side.” So in that regard, meeting planners have to spend more time analyzing cost-efficient and pragmatic solutions for their events in order to deliver the best possible experience for their attendees.
There are also occasions where hotels can offer synergies within the local community that event planners may otherwise not have access to. For instance, synergistically, hotels often bring companies one step closer to working closely with Conventions and Visitor Bureaus (CVBs). These relationships can add a great deal of value to the current event and help the event planner build their network for future events.
The sheer number of event spaces and options that have popped up over the past few years is why we have to give the ‘W’ to meeting planners. While hotels will remain a major player in the event space for years to come, the industry as a whole is being challenged to become more affordable, more flexible, and more customizable than ever before — and that’s a good thing for event attendees.