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Meetings and Events Trends: Marriott’s Take

Marriott International says planners and hotels are optimistic when it comes to meetings and events trends as this year unfolds

By Kathy Gibbons

Large meetings are making a comeback, according to insights from Marriott International. || Courtesy of Marriott International

Meeting planners and hotels are optimistic about this year’s outlook for meetings and events as the months progress. That’s according to Marriott International’s chief sales and marketing officer for the U.S. and Canada, Julius Robinson.

The company recently released Robinson’s insights on meetings and events trends and priorities shaping the hospitality industry this year. His predictions include growing interest in nontraditional venues, large meetings continuing to make a comeback, a return to networking opportunities, inclusion being a central pillar for planners, the creation of content that better engages Generation Z attendees, more bleisure (combining business with leisure) travel bookings, and the incorporation of local spaces and traditions to make events more memorable.

Robinson says Marriott’s conclusions on meetings and events trends are taken from the company’s experience with its portfolio of more than 30 brands as the company evaluates the industry year over year, as well as from industry-wide developments on what consumers are seeking. It’s all “to make sure we’re innovating and meeting the evolving needs of planners and meeting attendees,” says Robinson, in a prepared statement.

To address inclusion, Marriott has introduced features like inclusive menu planning and neuroinclusive meeting practices that focus on providing easier access to neurodiverse attendees including dedicated quiet rooms, sensory/fidget toys, and closed-captioning for event presentations. National Harbor, Maryland’s Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center’s Harbour Social was built specifically for networking to answer what Robinson says people missed most about in-person gatherings: being together and networking with others. “Attendees can enjoy a 10,000-square-foot sports bar, shuffleboard, air hockey tables, duckpin bowling, a bocce court, and more,” he says.

And as large meetings make a comeback, the more the merrier when it comes to meetings and event trends. “Small and medium-size companies have been leading recovery in group demand since the pandemic,” he says, adding, “Demand for large events has been so strong that we’re currently working with customers to secure availability into future years during peak times in key markets.”

As for Gen Z and their impact on meetings and events trends, Robinson says planners and strategists are seeing more in this age group born between 1996 and 2010 attending meetings. That means incorporating elements tailored to better engage them is crucial, including shortened sessions and interactive activities utilizing games.

With the increase in bleisure travel, many businesses book hotels with family-friendly amenities like pools, as shown here at Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. || Courtesy of Marriott International

When it comes to bleisure travel, attendees are adding “shoulder night” bookings—Sundays and Thursdays, says Robinson, noting, “Many businesses are now booking [certain] hotels over others based on family-friendly amenities such as a pool, childcare, or camp programs for kids, and perks [such as] nearby attractions.”