Association meeting planners value packaged options, custom solutions and personal relationships, according to hospitality management company KSL Resorts, which recently hosted its inaugural Association Customer Advisory Board meeting at The Homestead Resort & Spa in Hot Springs, Va., it announced last week.
The meeting — the goal of which was to determine what amenities and services are most important to association meeting professionals when they're selecting a meeting venue — produced several key takeaways, including:
• Because they're aiming to "do more with less," association meeting planners are looking for venues that offer packaged options or increased services.
• Association planners prefer venues that offer customized solutions based on their specific needs.
• Social media is a valuable marketing tool for association planners, who view LinkedIn and Facebook as the most effective and targeted social networks.
• Personal and trusted relationships, as well as peer-to-peer references, are highly valued among association planners, who say national sales representatives who develop "deep and comfortable" relationships with planners make a difference in the RFP process.
• Association planners want "total transparency" related to costs; audiovisual costs, in particular, are under scrutiny and Internet is expected to be free in meeting and guest rooms.
"The Association Customer Advisory Board serves as a strategic think tank for association planners to come together in a neutral, non-competitive environment to share trends and needs so that KSL Resorts can continue to be a solution-oriented provider and a top choice for meeting planners," said Michael Erickson, vice president of sales for KSL Resorts, which oversees a collection of nine resorts across the country — which it claims get 50 percent of their group business from associations. "The ultimate goal is to create a better product for association markets across the KSL brand."