Benchmark Hospitality Names Top 10 Meeting Trends for 2013

In the next 12 months, hotels and meeting planners are likely to see rising group rates, customized meeting packages and more teambuilding activities, predicts Benchmark Hospitality, which has released its list of the "Top 10 Meeting Trends for 2013."

According to the Houston-based hospitality management company, which based the list on a survey of the leadership at its 39 conference centers, hotels, and resorts, 2013's top trends will be:

1. Steady meeting demand. “Meeting demand is improving at an encouraging pace to start the New Year,” Benchmark says. “Many organizations have a positive outlook for 2013, but still remain cautious with long-term meeting commitments.”

2. Rising group rates. “With increased demand, group rates are advancing commensurately, depending on the location and the market,” according to Benchmark. “Meeting planning professionals are still in the driver's seat and they know it. Pricing is least sensitive within new industries and new media companies that are on a strong growth path.”

3. Customized meeting packages. “Expectations are heightened for the creative and unique delivery of the industry’s Complete Meeting Package,” Benchmark says. “It's not that meeting planning professionals don't like packaging or see its value. They just want that CMP acronym to now mean ‘customized meeting package’ — customized to their unique meeting needs and budget.”

4. Strong booking pace. “Across the country, booking pace is getting more encouraging for 2013 and for 2014,” Benchmark observes. “Depending on the market, there is positive direction with future bookings and healthy signs of activity and interest in getting deferred meetings on the books.”

5. Wireless amenities. “Whether it's a nod to green meetings or just convenience, note pads and pens are taking a back seat to iPads and electronic tablets as the preferred means of taking notes and documenting learning in the meeting room,” Benchmark points out. “Conference facilities are responding with charging stations throughout to juice up conferees' devices during breaks. Meetings are increasingly active with texting and tweeting exchanges with meeting-related content. Smart, interactive meetings are here to stay.”

6. Healthy F&B. “Healthy culinary continues, but ironically that doesn't mean the Danish trays aren't emptied daily,” Benchmark says. “Meeting attendees, though, are demanding healthy, gluten free, sustainable cuisine and refreshment break selections — even going so far as to request an authentic culinary experience reflecting the native cuisine of participants. Creative, imaginative and healthy culinary offerings are increasingly requested.”

7. Smaller, more secure meeting rooms. “Today's meeting technology brings a stronger need for secure environments in which to conduct business and learning when off site. And meeting planning professionals are demanding that meeting facilities respond accordingly,” Benchmark explains. “There's just too much at risk in this competitive business environment. Guess what else is in high demand — more breakout rooms … Demand for smaller and more intimate attendee interface is increasing after a lengthy period of deferred meetings.”

8. Teambuilding returns. “After years of postponed or deferred meetings, many companies are using teambuilding to inspire camaraderie and revive enthusiasm,” Benchmarks says. “But this is not your 1990s ropes and obstacle courses; today's teambuilding is about scavenger hunts, early morning group fitness runs, competitive bowling and culinary cook-offs. Fun, challenging and delicious!”

9. Electronic meeting planner communications. “Meeting planning professionals are busier, with [more] multitasking responsibilities than ever before,” Benchmark observes. “Fewer have planning as a primary function within their job responsibilities, and due to their hectic schedules, they have less time to be educated and even less patience to wait for a response. Interface with meeting professionals is increasingly done through RFP, email communication and in some cases texting.”

10. Segment-specific growth. “Education (particularly engineering and technology), medical, biotech, high-tech, new media, association, not-for-profits, financial services and the incentive segment are all showing signs of recovery for 2013,” according to Benchmark. “What's not won't surprise anyone — government related business.”

Bonus trend: Value. “[Value includes] plenty to do on property for attendees, up to date fitness and recreation, and strong WiFi signals throughout,” Benchmark concludes. “It’s all expected today. Social responsibility and sustainability are important, but not game changers — they’re a part of the mix and not an end in themselves.”

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