Teneo Hospitality Group Surveys Meeting Planners and Hoteliers & Targets Five Challenges Confronting Meetings Industry in 2019
By Mike Schugt, President, Teneo Hospitality Group
At our recent Annual Summit, we surveyed 150 meeting planners and hoteliers on the challenges they faced in effectively competing in today’s changing marketplace. A long list of challenges emerged with tight meeting budgets, time pressures, organizational issues, a lack of creativity, increasingly complex and costly mandates in catering, a need for more dynamic experiences and resistance to change were top contenders. All identified limited budgets, lack of time and somewhat inflexible corporate cultures.
Many of these challenges – and their solutions – are interdependent, meeting professionals are saying that they have concerns within their organization and corporate cultures which contribute to resistance to change, resulting in budgets that are impacted negatively. Planners are also saying that these challenges, coupled with the many demands on time, inhibit creative strategies that could otherwise help solve the obstacles.
Good news is that Teneo, our hotels and resorts, and the DMC Network, have a unique opportunity to step up and help solve the challenges of our planner partners! Follow along as I go through the top challenges we found in the survey and some solutions that might help alleviate those challenges.
Inadequate budgets headed the challenge lists for all survey participants. Planners cited rising costs, especially concerning food and beverage, with no comparable increase in budgets. The complexities of gaining budget increases from various corporate departments impact every aspect of the meeting process from training staff to negotiating contracts.
The fundamental way planners can achieve their budget is to be transparent and in open communication with a property or DMC. Though the tendency may be to play one’s cards close to the vest, transparency from the beginning of negotiations is key to effective planning and keeping costs in check.
CHALLENGE: LACK OF TIME
Time pressures impact every business and organization, but some concerns have particular ramifications for the meetings industry. Virtually all respondents cited a lack of time and identified challenges that could have far-reaching consequences. With sweeping advances in technology impacting the industry, hoteliers and planners noted that they often lacked the time to keep up with technical developments. This problem was amplified when attendees were ahead of the planners and hotels in their own use of technology.
Hotels are often inundated with leads and may not always be able to reply in 24 hours. Planners are encouraged to indicate their timeline for response up front so hotels, resorts, and DMCs can offer a higher quality of response. For planners, they can then gather their lead responses all at one time and be assured that the quality of response is going to be higher if a little more time is allocated to the properties and destinations of interest. Giving the hotel, resort and DMC as much information as possible saves everyone time and can save on the budget.
CHALLENGE: LACK OF CREATIVITY
Big brand hotels’ corporate bureaucracy partially accounts for planners’ demand for greater creativity in the meeting process, and a far more flexible business environment. Larger hotel brands often have corporate policies that may place limits on pushing the boundaries of creating the ultimate meeting experiences for planners. But the need for innovation and original events, imaginative use of technology, effective teambuilding exercises, new experiences in even the most tried and true destinations, and diverse, sustainable and healthy food cannot be ignored.
Partner with a hotel or resort that creatively works with planners and groups to construct a meeting itinerary customized to a specific group and set of meeting objectives. Independent and small brand properties, by the very nature of their independence, have proven to be expert in creatively discovering and helping plan for achieving meeting goals of professional planners and groups, doing so with out-of-the-box thinking, highly unique group initiatives, and far from run-of-the-mill teambuilding programming. Private destination management companies can also be an important resource, and Teneo suggests partnering with them to help make a city or destination come alive for meeting guests by maximizing local resources and attractions in a way that is meaningful to the group.
CHALLENGE: INCREASING COMPLEXITY & COSTS OF FOOD & BEVERAGE
As the population becomes more diverse, food preferences and dietary requirements have become more complicated. Growing awareness of wellness and sustainability issues add to a mix that could become more problematic and costlier. Paleo, keto, pescatarian, vegan and religious dietary requests are among the newest trends in conference dining in 2019. Respondents also called for better management of food ordering to keep costs down and eliminate waste.
This is an area where independent and small-brand hotels can get ultra-creative for the planner as they are in a more entrepreneurial and creative mode, less restricted by big-brand requirements and constraints. They can typically offer a more creative product with reduced costs. By working with chefs and banquet managers from these properties at the beginning of the planning process and being candid about budget constraints, it’s possible to obtain serious savings on food and beverage while achieving maximum creativity.
Hopefully I have provided you with some solutions to overcome any of these challenges you may be facing. Let’s clear the way for a successful and productive rest of your year!
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