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 Benchmark's Top Ten Hospitality Trends For 2006
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The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, March 2006 - Benchmark Hospitality International, which manages 31 award-winning resorts, hotels and conference centers in locations throughout the United States - from New York to California and Hawaii - announces its annual "Top Ten Hospitality Trends for the Year" as observed by its properties.

1. Hit the Spa!  

The hottest trend going in hotels.  It doesn't matter if you're a guest at a meeting, staying the night, or just getting away for the weekend, customers want to hit the spa, even if only for an hour or two at the end of the day.  

Hotels and resorts are adding spas rapidly to meet the demand.  It's not just about healthy lifestyles - it's well deserved pampering too!

2. Spending is Taking Off!  

Spending on company meetings is taking off.  Going into 2006, advance bookings for corporate conferences were up at Benchmark's properties from 20% to 50% over the start of 2005.  

Companies are investing more to bring their people together to launch, reinforce and accelerate initiatives in this strengthening economy.  And the investment per participant is also up significantly over last year.  

Corporations are gravitating to higher-end properties, where they can bring their people together in comfortable, full service hospitality environments and company leaders can make the right statement about the importance of their people and the meeting content.

3. A Rising Tide Floats All Boats - Some Higher than Others.

A rising tide floats all boats, but the meeting venues really taking off are those that offer much more than efficient and productive conference environments.  Properties that emphasize individual service, great restaurants and bars, high quality amenities, luxurious settings and accommodations - and a true specialization in accommodating high-end conferences - are the ones poised to capitalize on the flow of corporate dollars into meetings. 

Benchmark's response is the Benchmark Conference Plan.  It's a product conference groups cannot buy at a traditional resort or hotel.  The company has fine-tuned the concept, will continue to evolve it, and expects corporate America will embrace it in record numbers in 2006.

4. Luxury (is that a plasma screen in my guest room?) Is Back!

Travel budgets are healthier and guests are demanding luxury, first-class amenities and added value in return for their dollar.  

Flat screen televisions, luxurious bath soaps, superior bed and bath linens are benchmarks of quality.  And service expectations are at their peek.  Oh, and throw in a spa treatment or two for good measure.

5. WiFi - Better Have It 

It's about convenience.  Laptops open everywhere these days and it's expected that a guest can log on and access email or the office at a moment's notice - wherever he or she is.  

This is no longer a luxury, it is now perceived as a necessity, is expected, and more and more properties are providing it free of charge.

6. Security Detail:  Don't Let Me See The Whites Of Their Eyes!

The competition's eyes, that is!  While guests and planners are feeling relatively safe and secure in luxury properties across the country, a "competition clause" is now requested more often in contracts, precluding the presence of competitors anywhere on property while a company's executives are present.  Competition within industries is fierce and industrial espionage is a big concern.  

To be sure of privacy, some companies are buying up the entire hotel during their stay to control those they come into contact with.  Oh, and what we said about WiFi earlier -- it better be secure hotel-wide!

7. Optimize ... or Goodbye!

Benchmark property websites are delivering a substantial amount of guestroom business to the company's hotels.  Yes, reservations and bookings through the Global Distribution System are on the rise, but much of Benchmark Hospitality's business originates directly through either the corporate or property's websites.  A growing amount of meeting inquiries do as well.  

So optimization is critical.  Web searches better present the hotel in the Top Five listings to ensure consideration by the customer ... and the site must be appealing, easy to navigate, and effortless to book through.

8. Training & Strategic Planning:  Back Again, Big Time.

Business is back and corporate training and planning for future growth is surging.  

While mid-level and lower level managers are in meeting rooms brushing up on selling and management skills, senior executives are down the hall in the Boardroom strategically mapping out the company's future. 

Training meetings and strategic planning sessions are back, big time.

9. Goodbye Print?  Hello E-commerce?  Not So Fast.

Yes, how hotels and conference centers communicate with consumers and planners is rapidly changing as e-commerce seeks dominance.  Print advertising, however, is by no means dead and direct mail is alive, well and kicking.  

Budgets are shifting and online marketing is growing every year, but print's power remains a force to be reckoned with - its obituary has not yet been written.

10. Blogs, Blogging? What?  

For all the talk of blogs in the meetings and hotel industry, who's really logging on and participating?  Customers don't mention them, providers aren't contributing much to them, and business doesn't seem to be originating through them.  

So who's blogging out there?  Maybe next year. 

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For more information on Benchmark's "Top Ten Hospitality Trends for 2006," or to speak with a Benchmark Hospitality International professional, contact Ken Ellens, Ken Ellens Communications, at 201-758-2864 or KenEllens@aol.com.

Benchmark Hospitality International, an independent hospitality management company based in The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, operates resorts, conference centers and hotels both domestically and internationally.  For locations of Benchmark Hospitality properties and for additional information, visit Benchmark's Website at www.benchmarkhospitality.com.

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Contact:

Benchmark Hospitality International
The Woodlands (Houston), Texas
www.benchmarkhospitality.com

News Release
Contact: Ken Ellens
Ken Ellens Communications 
201-758-2864 / 201-758-2865-Fax
KenEllens@aol.com
 

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Also See: Benchmark's Top Ten Meeting Industry Trends for 2005 / January 2005
Benchmark's Top Ten Meeting Industry Trends for 2004 / January 2004
Ten Meeting Industry Trends for 2003 - Observed by Benchmark Resorts, Hotels & Conference Centers / Jan 2003
Ten Meeting Industry Trends Observed by Benchmark Resorts, Hotels & Conference Centers / Jan 2002


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