We were shocked by the high demand from our current clients for quarterly team outings. We are finding these outings range from 2-3 nights. Budgets are on the low side. Most are not focused on content/meetings but instead networking and team building experiences.
After a two year hiatus from Presidents Clubs, the hotel industry is back and busier than ever. We are ecstatic that our clients are back traveling and more surprising adding more events than ever.
Picking the right hotel partner is more important than ever specifically given the market conditions discussed in our last blog post. You want to focus on hotels who have had the same CSM team throughout the pandemic or hotels who have hired strong sales reps who are responsive and flexible.
The hotel and airline industries have been a rollercoaster the last 6 months, leading to a volatile travel industry. After a 10% decrease in inflation for hotel room rates in 2020 we have seen a strong return in 2021 and 2022 is predicted to break hotel occupancy rates in locations such as Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Florida, South Carolina, Colorado, and Georgia. Not only are occupancy rates higher than ever, but cost per hotel room night is reaching all time highs in these locations.
After an 18 month sabbatical it’s amazing to be back in the events game.
Our first events happened to be back to back events in Austin, Texas with companies headquartered in Sacramento, CA and Boston, MA. The employees were ready to travel and the companies were ready to implement safety precautions to help protect everyone attending. These events were followed by two domestic and four international Club trips where all of the group events were focused on outdoor venues. We are finding cancellations are happening less, clients are traveling more, and attritions are high within the group block.
After eight successful corporate events over the last two months I wanted to share a few lessons learned.
Annual Sales Kickoff
Many tech companies host an annual sales kickoff every January or February to help recap the previous year, set goals for the upcoming year, and announce new product launches. These kickoffs have evolved from traditional Webex meetings delivering content, to live hands-on sales trainings and/or simulation tests. This shift in the way kickoffs are held comes with many added costs. A Webex/Zoom meeting is a low cost, non-branded solution that allows companies to share their updates and changes in a concise meeting format up to 3 hours. Anything over the battery life of a computer and you start losing attendees (to be honest, you lose the focus of most dial-in participants after 70 minutes).
While there are certainly benefits to these webinars or sales trainings, the more popular solution today is getting employees together for a 3-4 day intensive kickoff event. An important part of these events is the positive effect on company culture. What better way to boost employee morale and get your team ready for the year ahead, than to put them together for 3 days in sales trainings during the day and social networking events at night. Most kickoffs only include 4-8 hours of content and the rest is focused on having a more hands-on experience.
So this all leads to meeting planners' most commonly asked question: where should we go next year? Unfortunately for most growing tech companies, this question comes a good 6-9 months before their 300-600 person event! The tech market is constantly changing with IPOs, funding, and acquisitions, so meeting planning timelines have continued to shrink while cash is watched more closely.
In 2020, you would assume the answer to this question is yes. And for the most part, that's right. Technology in the meetings and events industry has transformed over the last 5+ years with smartphone apps, websites, and on-site displays. However, despite providing attendees with all of this technology (from event websites to agenda apps, and even screens displaying throughout the property), there's still feedback that certain guests miss hard copy agendas. The days of printing agendas for every attendee are over, but if you find it necessary to provide hard copies for some, we recommend printing 20% of the attendee number. If you run out you can always print more on site.
The main benefit of having your agenda online is the ability to make live updates. Our world is more unpredictable than ever, so this is an increasingly important aspect in event planning. When COVID-19 started to impact everything earlier this year, we were able to update itineraries and communicate with clients as soon as changes happened. This is crucial, especially when planning for a large group traveling from all over the world. Even when things are going smoothly though, apps and event websites are the most streamlined way to communicate effectively with large groups of attendees.
Here are our top hotels for incentive travel in 2020.
Malliouhana Anguilla (63 rooms; opened 1984, renovated 2019 and became an Auberge property). This property recently reopened after a large renovation and Auberge taking over management of the hotel. From the moment you enter the lobby, there's definitely a wow factor from the view down to the decor, and it doesn't stop there. The beach, service, food, spa, and pools are all extremely impressive. This is the perfect opportunity for an incentive program buyout for groups with 50-60 rooms. The addition of the beachfront casual dining restaurant, Leon’s, is perfect for a casual lunchtime option or entertainment each evening.
When looking for the perfect hotel for your next event, it’s essential to have strong partnerships with individual hotels, third party sales teams, and regional corporate reps.
One core focus in the incentive travel industry each and every year is improving the attendee experience. At the end of the day, the attendee experience is the true measurement of the success of an event. In fact, the attendee experience does not start when the attendees arrive, but up to a year before the trip (in terms of event communication).