Six trends surfaced in the State of the Meeting Industry and 2013 Trend Forecast, released in late October by Destination Hotels & Resorts. The hotel management company surveyed 383 planners in the United States, representing a cross section of sectors. Here's what planners identified as their priorities for the coming year.
Meeting location trumps other factors. The most important consideration in selecting a meeting venue is destination, according to the survey, while rate, flexible space and amenities followed closely behind. Slightly more than one-third (34 percent) of respondents said more than half of their meetings would be national in scope, while nearly 30 percent of planners expected all their meetings to occur in local markets.
Green is the new green. Sustainability concerns could make a comeback, with nearly half (45 percent) of planners calling eco-friendly hotel practices somewhat important and almost one-fifth (18 percent) saying such practices are extremely important in their venue selection.
There's a feeding frenzy. More than three-quarters of survey respondents said culinary offerings are an important part of their selection process, with 30 percent going so far as to deem them extremely important. Health- and nutrition-focused packages (43 percent) and specialized dietary options (35 percent) were identified as trending factors in culinary considerations. "We've seen a substantial increase in demand for organic cuisine from groups," notes Destination's vice president of sales, Curtis Bova. Big-name chefs, on the other hand, were a concern of less than 10 percent of planners surveyed.
Planners want action. More than half of respondents (54 percent) deemed action/adventure activities a preferred team-building option. "The increased popularity in adventure team building has been led by demand for authentic local experiences beyond the boardroom," explains André Fournier, Destination's vice president of sales and marketing. "Mirroring the trends we are seeing from leisure travelers, groups want to create itineraries that are memorable and distinctive to the destination they are in."
Social networks and user reviews are key. Planners are relying heavily on user-generated content and social networks in the planning process, not surprisingly. Half of respondents said social media is an integral part of the planning process, and slightly less than half say they check Trip Advisor and other online review sites before booking venues.
It's time to tackle tech integration. More than one-third (36 percent) of planners surveyed said their technology integration efforts have increased in the past year, with the top tech types being streaming media, web conferencing and on-site video production. More than one-quarter of all the meetings planned by respondents rely on at least one of the above.