As more and more people are on a first-name basis with Alexa and Siri, it's no surprise that the need and desire for the face-to-face human contact that live meetings and events provide has increased. A demand for interactive and inspiring events is just one of the many 2018 trends predicted by Two Roads Hospitality in its “State of the Meetings Industry” survey. The international lifestyle company and hospitality leader surveyed more than 300 government, association, corporate and independent planners before compiling their results.
According to survey results, more than 74 percent of planners found flexible meeting space as a high priority. Non-traditional elements like informal living-room concepts and comfortable, lounge-style seating areas are becoming commonplace. Many meeting planners are also seeking mixed environments to blend the traditional conference table with residential elements to create warm 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 Andre Fournier, executive vice president of sales, marketing and revenue for Two Roads Hospitality.
Two Roads Hospitality's survey also gathered key findings and forecasted trends around meeting execution, and participation for the year ahead.
Market strength and stability: Based on survey results, Two Roads Hospitality predicts 2018 will see a strong showing in corporate meeting spending. 37 percent of respondents said they will plan more meetings for 2018 and nearly 45 percent of survey respondents said they have more money to spend in 2018.
“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," said Fournier. “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.”
Digital meeting assets: Survey respondents also indicated that technology will play a key role in 2018 meetings, with 61 percent of planners ranking tech as a high priority. With the prevalence of event apps and social media platforms, bandwidth will be the topic of concern. Several Two Roads properties offer 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.
Food & Beverage: Food and beverage was ranked the third-most important factor in site-selection decisions, behind only location and rate in 2017. “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,” says Fournier.
Planners know quality options will result in maximum performance for their attendees and have an opportunity to provide local offerings that attendees may not have seen, tasted or experienced before.
Remember ROI: Of course planners know that value significantly informs decisions in meeting bookings, but survey results indicate that planners will continue to put a great emphasis on delivering a quantifiable return on investment for event attendees and the organization. This value will be determined 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.
Read more on Two Roads Hospitality and view the full version of the 2018 report here.