by Sarah J.F. Braley | March 08, 2017
Benchmark Resorts & Hotels has released its "Top Meeting Trends for 2017," based on a survey of its properties to discover what they are seeing as far as meetings are concerned. 
 
"We look forward to another stellar year," said Ted Davis, the company's chief sales and marketing officer. "Last year was one of dynamic growth for us as well as much of the meetings industry, and 2017 is looking even more promising. We particularly look forward to the increasing demand for creative destination-inspired experiences and outdoor adventure activities that encourage group participation, challenge individuals and inspire collaborative efforts."
 
Here's what the hospitality company discovered:
 
Trend 1: The outlook is promising. Early indications are encouraging for a favorable business environment for 2017. The remainder of the year looks bright with renewed energy and prosperity in the meetings marketplace, as well as growing confidence in job creation and resulting training demand. A reinvigorated economy expected to provide a strong boost to corporate meetings.
 
Trend 2: Authenticity matters. Groups want authentic, interactive travel experiences to enrich their meetings. This is particularly so with younger meeting guests, the Millennials. Planners are seeking to immerse their attendees in the local milieu, such as experiencing indigenous cultures like Hawaii's distinctive Polynesian heritage, or engage with social causes.  
 
Trend 3: Social media grows up. Social media in the meetings marketplace has achieved the status of standard operating procedure. LinkedIn establishes communication with meeting planners. Facebook, Instagram and YouTube showcase a property to planners and highlight the venue's unique capabilities and that of the destination. Twitter and the use of creative and relevant hashtags are essential within a meeting for the concise, bite-size communications.
 
Trend 4: Corporations are planning play days. Team building in 2017 uses technology for bonding: GPS, virtual reality and adrenaline-packed interaction utilizing multiple skill sets.  
 
Trend 5: I need it yesterday! The number-one planner request in 2017 is "as soon as possible, or sooner!" This lust for speed is driven by technology, so planner requests for proposals are expected to be turned around by the afternoon or close of business. Text messaging is replacing emailing and phone calls because it's quicker. Even on-property needs and requests have expectations of immediate response. Winning properties operate with anticipation and a sense of urgency, which is the new baseline for success.
 
Trend 6: Fast and furious technology. Smartphones are changing everything in meetings. Poken enables attendees to easily and quickly connect, network and share contact info. Click Share is becoming the norm allowing complete flexibility with presentation controls and to permit others in the room to share their laptops with the presenter screen at the push of a button. Skype engages interaction with remote participants. Dedicated apps drive registration and communication before, during and after a meeting. Again, text messaging often replaces email as it's faster and more efficient.
 
Trend 7: The pace is positive. Group size; the number of meetings scheduled for 2017; rising meeting rates; and strengthening demand for creative, customized meeting packages -- it's all trending positively for 2017. Though the length of meetings remains 3 days and 2 nights, some properties are starting to see weeklong meetings on the horizon.
 
Trend 8. It's all in the crafting. For 2017, distilling trends are creating an increasing interest in the evolution of craft beers, craft cocktails and craft liquors, particularly whiskey. It's about more than enjoying the taste of a locally inspired libation. Increasingly off-property experiences and tutorials on how these beverages are created and how they pair with food are in high demand with meeting planners and attendees. Many properties' bars are hosting happy hours featuring these tutorials. The big draw is the education element, as well as a unique post-meeting event, creating a wonderful environment for socializing and unwinding at the end of a long day. 
 
Trend 9. Relationship management is key. How do you build a solid relationship in life, whether personal or professional? Good old-fashioned phone calls, invitations to special events at your property or within your destination, meeting for coffee or cocktails after work, are all seen as critical in nurturing a relationship with those who can be so meaningful in delivering volume business to your hotel or resort.
 
Trend 10: Train, train, train! Hands down, nothing is more important for guests on-property than encountering a well-trained staff. A trained staff is responsive, participatory, solutions-minded and continuously attentive to customers' needs. It starts with hiring the best and continues, daily in some cases, with effective training. 
 
Bonus Trend: Where the demand is. Health care, education, the financial industry and major pharmaceutical companies are among sectors delivering strong demand in 2017. Incentive meetings are making a comeback, and properties are responding with destination packages that showcase the best and most unique features of a locale, enriching the experience for all attendees.
 
Benchmark operates 70 hotels, resorts and conference centers within its Benchmark Resorts & Hotels and Gemstone Collection brands.