Although hoteliers’ performance largely relies on revenues generated by business tourism, few have made great efforts to make their seminar offer evolve. The priority of professionals in the hotel sector is to obtain a positive return on customer experience as well as a return on investment. But, how can they attract more business events if the comfort found at convention centers is not so different from that at headquarters?
Increasingly flexible spaces
Events planners are looking for an ever increasing number of work spaces that allow, in particular, communication in small committees. Hotels now automatically offer several meeting rooms, modular spaces that may be rearranged according to the number of participants, and of course a ballroom for large scale events. However, hotel groups and independent properties are increasingly tailoring their offer for smaller meetings. For instance, the Scandinavian group Scandic offers a Think Tank program with express packages: 2 to 4h of meetings for maximum ten people. This type of offer starts at 20€ per person. Also available are half-day packages (complimentary Wi-Fi, breakfast, lunch, coffee, tea, unlimited nuts and dried fruit starting from 35€ per person), full day packages (starting at 67€) and evening packages after 6pm. In keeping with small spaces, The Westin by Starwood Hotels & Resorts offers its "Tangent" spaces that are available by the hour and can accommodate a maximum of four (75 dollars/h). These rooms are equipped with a computer connected to Internet, two televisions and a printer. This space lends itself particularly well to videoconferences. Marriott International launched Workspace on Demand, which it developed in partnership with the North American co-working specialist Liquid Space. Anyone may reserve a meeting room in thirty or so American properties (mostly Marriott Hotel, Courtyard by Marriott and Renaissance Hotels). The space may be rented for a custom length between thirty minutes and eight hours. And what if the hotel meeting rooms were to enter into competetion with cyber cafés and libraries?
Technological tools upgraded the experience
Powerful, complimentary, high debit Wi-Fi is a must have in meeting rooms, common areas and also guest rooms. Conference goers often travel with several laptops, iPads, and/or Smartphones (professional and private). All the more so since social networks such as Linkedin and Viadeo generate a great deal of traffic during events. Multimedia equipment plays an important role well before the event takes place. Applications help prepare the seminar efficiently. Accor Meetings Hotels allows professionals to choose their hotel according to several criteria: capacity (number of rooms), type of room desired, proximity to airport, etc. The Pullman brand is implementing a co-meeting planning offer with a goal to plan the event in a perfectly coodinated manner between the service provider and the hotel. Two employees are available: the Event Manager and the IT Solutions Manager. The first guarantees the organization of the event from beginning to end, he is the single interlocutor managing the setup, welcome, last minute requests and follow-up. The second, as a technological expert, ensures compliancy with specifications and guarantees the good functioning of technical equipment.
With Iplan, clients are able to create the plans for an ideal meeting room. Meeting Matrix software brings the project to life, making it evolve from a 2D sketch to a 3D experience making it possible to have virtual visits in the meeting room. The service is available at seven properties in Germany, Barcelona, Paris and Jakarta. Another pre-booking innovation is the project Roam View by RoamingAround which aims to help hotels commercialize their meeting spaces. They film a video using a drone and create interactive contents. Events planners are thus able to visit the hotel from their desk. Starwood Hotels & Resorts launched its ProMeetings application that offers technological solutions for event management in real time from a Smartphone. Starwood Preferred Guests (SPGs) will be able to make all kinds of requests (problem in the room, need for additional service, etc.) on the meeting planner. The program is scheduled for rollout worldwide in 2016 at W, the Westin and Sheraton hotels.
Trendier design and entertainment
Major congresses and seminars are losing ground. The advantages of meetings of increasingly small groups are making a buzz as it is said they result in more innovative ideas. Boutique and lifestyle hotels are ahead of the game since they are positionning towards more originality. Thus, Hotel Bloom in Brussels regularly offers art exhibitions in the lobby while the more athletic may engage in a game of tennis on the Wii Sport console. The same goes for Mama Shelter where a ping-pong table graces its terrace in Marseille and foosball in Istanbul. Hotel chains historically dedicated to business clientele must be original as well. At Radisson Blu, Brain Box workshops are cozy. Each participant is seated on a sofa or colored ottoman and uses chalk to write on chalkboards. The Ideation Room at the Crowne Plaza Amsterdam uses the same concept with a digital blackboard. Recently, Marriott International announced renovations for its meeting rooms at Marriott London Kensington and for its lifestyle brand Moxy. It remains to be seen if these innovations are likely to change daily behavior at companies : as in other common area of hotels, the keys to success for meeting rooms is to better root itself in the consuption habits of its neighborhood.
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