Thursday, July 25, 2024
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State of the Industry

By Beth Buehler

BUSINESS CONTINUES TO BE UP, a new generation is entering the workforce, rates are climbing, and planners and event producers are examining if the way they’ve always done things needs to change. This is just a snippet of what the magazine’s editorial advisory board, composed of planners, suppliers and destination representatives from around the state, had to say during a recent discussion about the industry.

Compared to a Year Ago

Corporations are spending more on catering and décor. Our sales for 2013 were way up, and we are already surpassing budget numbers for the first quarter. My perception is it’s very healthy. –Ingrid Nagy, Catering by Design

I agree. Properties are booked up further in advance. It’s back to being normal, like 2007. Corporations are being more strategic with their meetings and looking at why we are having them instead of having every one as always. –Amy Drotar, CMM, CMP, Polycom, Inc.

The last two years, business was so last-minute. For something as simple as linen, they were coming to me two and three months out. Now, it seems like I have more 2015 bookings, and there is a longer planning time. At the same time, I’ve talked to quite a few planners and venues that are not as booked as they were at this time last year. -Tamara Wilkinson, Chair Covers & Linens

Associations hardly ever cancel all their meetings, just cut spending. This year, spending is up and associations are looking for more sponsorship dollars. -Scott Collinsworth, Freeman

Businesses are more able to sponsor and donate things again. As association volunteers get busier with their work in unrelated fields, we get busier. The last five years, so many groups had become so all-volunteer run. -Anne O’Neill, CMP, CAE, OES Management

In Vail and Beaver Creek and other resort areas, group business is on the uptick. Properties are having their best group years ever. There were five years that were very tough, as the mountain region is more of a luxury/by choice place to have off-site, group-oriented meetings and events. With employment and the stock market up, that helps us.

Peak times haven’t been the problem; the huge drop-off was in non-peak times. We’re also seeing the return of food and beverage minimums and site fees. -Chris Romer, Vail Valley Partnership

Last year, we did more corporate than wedding business for the first time. Average daily rate went up without a blink of an eye. We had more weddings in April and November than before, and meetings of about 75 people are going gangbusters. -Julie Branstrom, Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa

We are seeing trends of hot cities for exhibitions, and groups are considering non-top tier cities they didn’t have to look at before. … A few years ago, we were dealing with empty space on the floor a week before. Now we are seeing more aisles filled and not all the cancellations, but clients may have to put off an event for six months and then roll it back more. -Pamela Mather, Brede-Colorado, Inc.

I haven’t had a group cancel in two or three years. I remember 2009 as being a pretty tough year, and I hope we don’t ever go back there. -Bill Light, ALHI

Staffing Update

We’ve been growing and expanding even since 2008 and 2009. Some of the brands we overlap with have cut staff and bring us on to represent properties. … Several properties haven’t staffed back up as the economy has bounced back. -Bill Light

We are adding employees to make sure our service is there with new luxury properties being added downtown. -Kristin Hutton, CMP, The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa (at the time of writing)

From a vendor standpoint, every caterer has been hiring since beginning of the year. I’ve seen an influx of people hiring consultants and not adding employees. The consultant world is strong. -Patty Moser, Blue Eyes Consulting

We’ve changed our model. I have no staff, just consultants. We work with the same people, and they have Polycom email addresses. -Amy Drotar

We are hiring, but can’t find the candidates with knowledge or experience base to take care of our clients. -Ingrid Nagy

The Next Generation

I think we need to discuss the generation that is coming up and expectations they are bringing like what they should be paid and what they should be paid for. It’s an expectation that is not going away. The work ethic is in question. -Patty Moser

I would have agreed a year ago, but I’ve had an influx of people who have changed my mind. We have three administrative support staff who came out of Metro State and Johnson & Wales who are some of the sharpest and confident I’ve seen-a breath of fresh air as I went through a spell of those kinds of interactions. They are coming in with education, preparation and real-world experiences. -Kristin Hutton

I’ll take both sides on this. People who go to school for this industry and are passionate are great and exhibit work ethic. If they happen to drop into the industry, they have the entitlement attitude. Those with good internships and professors who led them do great. -Chris Romer

Demand & Pricing

Meetings are up, but planners’ budgets are not. Bosses are asking why they can’t still get the same rate at properties like The Broadmoor like they did a few years ago. Inventory is not up enough for the demand. … We are now seeing more of a price differential between top tier and below again, more of a separating out based on quality level and tier level. It’s helping second-tier destinations, but it’s a lot of work on our end. Some hotels haven’t increased sales staffs, and there are lots of leads coming their way. -Terri Woodin, CMP, CHSE, Meeting Sites Resource

I echo what Terri said. People may have to think about second- and third-tier cities because of demand. -Bill Light

We developed a new position just to lead catch, as we couldn’t keep up. -Kristin Hutton

To Change or Not to Change

Planners are utilizing third parties to make the changes happen. … The ugly side of doing the same meeting again and again is that it does not fly with the 21- to 35-year-olds. There are not enough resources and time to do it differently, but I think it is getting to a breaking point. They want to learn but also want to have an experience meant for them. -Glenn Thayer, Thayer Productions

People want to say I went there and did that. It fit my need and I had this experience. -Julie Branstrom

It’s a learning curve. As people want to do things differently, they don’t know how to go about it. We’re put in the position of telling them how to get it done-matching up needs with expectations and be that consultant and educator instead of just a vendor. Keeping it the same, there is a reason for it: It’s cheaper! We have to be not just a vendor, but a team member. -Scott Collinsworth

The meeting planner is no longer the logistics planner, but the person who brings the pieces together to fulfill the goals the CEO or whomever has in mind. It’s not about knowing how many glasses of wine are in a bottle anymore. -Amy Drotar

It’s the planners who open up with us and let us run with it where we can get more creative. It’s not so much about meeting with the end client but more meeting as a team with the planner so we can present an all-encompassing package. -Ingrid Nagy