It just may be the small meetings business that could help the beleaguered hotel industry overcome challenges presented by a raging pandemic, economic downturn and civil unrest.
Companies anxious to cement deals and keep their employees connected realize they need to have meetings, with hotels providing the perfect venue to do this safely in small groups. To entice these groups, hotels are providing enhanced technology, flexible contracts that allow for last-minute changes and detailed sanitary procedures.
“Hotels must have all social distancing guidelines in place for meeting space and (food and beverage). In addition, they need to offer more flexible cancellation and attrition clauses around force majeure, or if fewer attendees become a reality,” said Steve Goodman, founder and managing partner at MeetingAdvice in Atlanta.
Some hotels are offering meeting space just for online meetings, and most in-person meetings going forward will have a hybrid component, he said. As a result, hotels are making accommodations to allow this, such as higher bandwidth options.
Hotels can also charge extra for the additional audio-visual services to accommodate the online or hybrid meetings, which is another potential revenue source.
In addition, even larger meetings and incentive bookings are on the books for 2022, Goodman said, which will also mean greater revenues.
However, even though bookings are picking up, many meetings being booked now are drive-to market focused. This is the case until consumer confidence with longer-haul flight travel rises, said Teresa Savage, vice president of business development at the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau in California.
A significant portion of these gatherings are meetings with boards of directors and other corporate matters such as strategy, budget, sales and marketing, operations, staffing and company performance, said Tim Dick, senior director with CBRE Hotels Advisory.
The average meeting size generally averages about 18 to 20 people. Video conference capabilities at hotels is critical as is F&B. Additional meetings range from 12 14, Dick said. The booking cycle is short, generally within 45 days. Half of the booked meetings are rooms only and the other half include F&B.