Once upon a time, a table and chairs in a private room was enough to qualify as a chargeable event space. These days, corporate customers have much higher expectations, from the type of rooms for hire to the facilities. Small, achievable changes can make a real difference to any meeting space and, by getting this offer right, there's a good chance of enjoying a piece of the lucrative meetings and events pie.
The Marriott model
A 2018 PwC report highlighted that although badly affected during the recession, the "meetings and events sector continues to recover slowly.'' This message was seemingly reflected with the recent launch of the all-encompassing Marriott Bonvoy Events platform.
In Marriott's case, this launch came at an inevitable time. "Following the integration between Marriott International and Starwood, and the combination of our loyalty programmes," explains Tammy Routh, Senior Vice President, Global Sales at Marriott International, "we now have the ability to showcase meetings capabilities across our combined portfolio of brands." And with more than 5,700 properties on their books, it's a hefty collection.
Routh continues, "One of the objectives of Marriott Bonvoy Events is to consolidate information about our hotels in one user-friendly platform. It offers a new property search tool, but also serves as a source for inspiration, best practices and success stories from the hotels and planners."
Play to your strengths
Of course, few hotels have the portfolio of Marriott International, so it's a question of playing to your strengths when it comes to selling a property for a corporate event. It’s important to work within the space available to figure out what type of meeting - such as theatre style, panel discussion, networking, roundtables - can and, crucially, cannot be hosted before marketing it accordingly.
Dutch hotel company citizenM is known for its modern, hi-tech approach, something it has channelled into its societyM meeting rooms. "We offer societyM rooms for between four and 50 pax," states Lennert de Jong, Chief Commercial Officer at citizenM. "We don't have any large conference rooms or spaces, which would have a bigger impact on the rest of the hotel guests."
In a joint 2018 report by the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and Marriott on The Future of Meetings & Events, it found that 74% of consumers want to be treated as individuals and not just as part of a consumer segment. Given the choice available to event managers, this appears to be a good opportunity for hotels to differentiate and offer that personal touch to help standout from the crowd.
"Meetings and events is a highly customisable industry," states Routh. "We know that there are many factors that contribute to a successful meeting experience and not one solution or space fits every type of event."
There's a similar attitude at citizenM. "We understand that in order to be profitable we also need to be flexible," shares Jong. "A space alone doesn't automatically equate to a successful meeting. It's the ambiance, technology and, of course, the service and facilities that make the difference."
While it's important to ensure the space and facilities - reliably fast Wi-Fi, good A/V equipment included - are up to scratch, it would be dangerous to overlook the basics. Jong admits that while technology is a major part of citizenM's meetings experience, there’s still the need for "friendly and helpful onsite staff - and good coffee goes a long way, too."
The rise and rise of the experience
As is seen elsewhere in the travel industry, local experiences count more than ever, and the meetings sector is no exception. Within the PCMA report, it states that 53% of consumers say the most interesting part of travel is discovering local neighbourhoods.
When this is considered within the context of a business meeting, especially one that's taking place in a destination away from attendees’ home cities, the option to tie in a local experience is an added bonus for any would-be corporate clients.
"It's no longer enough to simply showcase the typical tourist aspects of a destination," says Routh. "We empower our planners to find authentic offerings that celebrate local communities and promote exploration. These are the types of tactics that create a deeper connection to the meeting destination, as well as the host hotel."
- According to a PwC report, the meetings and events sector “continues to recover slowly" following the recession
- Hotels must be clear about what type of meetings can and cannot work in the space they have available
- A meeting is far more than just the space: facilities and services are vital components for a successful event
- A joint PCMA and Marriott report found that 74% of consumers want to be treated as individuals showing the need to be flexible and enable corporate clients to tailor their events