by Michael J. Shapiro | May 07, 2015
Group demand, pickup and spend are all increasing for 2015 and beyond, according to a survey of the Marriott Convention & Resort Network's meeting hotels. Last month's survey, which compiled input from the more than 60 JW Marriott, Autograph Collection, Renaissance, Marriott Hotels and Gaylord Hotels that comprise the network, revealed these positive trends, particularly for large groups. Group demand is reaching an all-time high, with 78 percent of the hotels seeing an increase in corporate leads, and 90 percent of those coming from U.S. mainland resorts. Nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of offshore resorts and half of U.S. resorts are seeing an increase in incentive groups. "Demand is exceeding pre-recession levels," noted Mike Wainwright, VP of sales strategy for the network, "which we see as increased confidence in the economy and an investment that companies are making in their employees."

In terms of attendance, 65 percent of hotels said the majority of large groups are achieving or exceeding their room blocks. In fact, 60 percent of the U.S. resorts noted that groups are picking up more than their original room blocks. About half of the network's hotels report an increase in the number of attendees, while 47 percent say the number of meeting cancellations has decreased from two years ago. "We are experiencing our strongest pickup across our network resorts," Wainwright pointed out.

Spend also has increased over the last two years, with 78 percent of the hotels reporting increased meeting spend in 2015. More than two-thirds (69 percent) said that groups have increased spending on food, and 63 percent noted an increase in beverage spend.

Lead times are increasing, as well: 41 percent of network hotels reported that groups with 300 rooms or more are booking farther out than they were two years ago. More than 30 percent of properties with more than 600 rooms reported large groups are most commonly booking into 2017, and more than 20 percent said the majority of large groups are now booking into 2018. Midsize groups with an average of 100 to 250 rooms are most commonly booking into 2016, according to the survey.