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Getting in the Christmas Spirit at Holiday Showcase 2017

By Kelsey Ogletree

New friends, newfound knowledge and fluffy marshmallows—these are a few of my favorite things, and I found lots of each at the 2017 Holiday Showcase event on Dec. 14.

Held for 29 years at Hyatt Regency Chicago, this annual event produced by Association Forum has long been a must-attend for Midwestern event professionals. The day kicks off with excellent education, followed by brunch and a top-notch keynote, then an afternoon of networking (and imbibing in holiday cocktails) with peers and suppliers from around the country.

This year’s program did not disappoint. One of my favorite industry leaders, MGM’s Michael Dominguez, presented a highly engaging session on connecting the dots from news and the U.S. economy as they relate to the travel industry. One of the key points he made that I think is important for event professionals: Since 2002, group room nights have grown by 3 percent; transient room nights have grown by 36 percent. It’s no wonder planners are feeling the compression for room blocks. There is much more competition for rooms, especially from transient guests who pay an average of $40 more per room than groups. The solution for planners, Dominguez says, is “showing all your cards” to your hotel sales team. Being upfront about exceeding or falling short of your room block much earlier will help them more accurately forecast projections—and keep you and your group in their good graces. (Watch for more on this in a future issue of Illinois Meetings + Events!)

A new addition to Holiday Showcase this year was the Unity Wall, designed as a demonstration of support to industry partners who experienced great loss this year. Participants could share positive words on a note and pin it to a giant map. 

During the tradeshow portion of the event, the Hyatt booth proved popular thanks to a setup with The Perfume Bar. Attendees stood in a long line to get their turn at creating their own signature scent with the help of this Toronto-based event company. Planners, take note!

When it comes to snacks, the most creative offering went to Choose Chicago, which passed out Mars’halos from Chicago-based XO Marshmallow alongside a hot cocoa station. They may look like a doughnut, but these treats are actually giant ring-shaped marshmallows designed to fit perfectly on top of a mug.

Of course, destinations went all out showcasing their signature beverages, too, from custom-crafted lattes at the Seattle booth to bourbon drinks at Louisville, frozen margaritas at Dallas and wine at Monterey County. We all needed a little refreshment after all that talking, anyway. And now I’m definitely in the holiday spirit.

I look forward to sharing more ideas from Holiday Showcase with you in future issues of Illinois Meetings + Events. Check out photos from the event by searching #HS2017 on Instagram, too.

Happy holidays!