|by John R. Hendrie, March 2006
If audacious, they will change the landscape of Hospitality.
If trends are any indicator, the State of Hospitality, undergoing a
recent boom, has a very weak seam. Standards, whether in quality
or performance, are low; the product has significant highs, a modest middle
ground, and an enormous, disappointing base. Service delivery is
spotty, the attitude is careless, and the reception is disinterested. Only
the Consumer can change this. Enter the Meeting/Convention Planner,
who must navigate the unsure landscape we present.
We will see new momentum and demand for change through the efforts
of the providers who dictate the most traffic – the meeting and convention
planners. They receive, immediately, the reports of our performance
or lack thereof, whether it be the hotels which house their constituents
or the Destination businesses which support the Visitor, where they may
also stay, dine, transit, entertain themselves and shop.
These planners represent huge clout, and Destination past history and
current status will impact more so the decisions on where to hold meetings
and conventions. They are powerful and ever more circumspect about where
to “book” their business. It is about the Visitor Experience! The
casual, vacationing and business traveler has also become disillusioned;
as these are individual voices, their angst is really measured business
by business. We, as an Industry, do such a poor job of capturing
Visitor and Guest Satisfaction information that this tide of discontent
is sometimes seen as an eddy, but the wave is cresting and frothing.
The Meeting/Convention Planner agenda has been transformed. Of
course, they still look for prime location, reasonable price, capacity,
logistics and support services. The meeting “junket” is passé;
the working conference is now results driven. Planners are increasingly
tasking the CVB community, and the Destination leadership must be better
prepared to address several pressing concerns:
Safety and Security. We live a dangerous world, and Destinations
need to adapt for their Visitors. Whether it be sensational incidents,
natural disasters, or the amorphous spectre of terrorism, Planners will
demand to know what the Emergency Preparedness strategies are, and Destinations
must be in a position to demonstrate the Plans for community evacuation,
triage, communication and leadership. Additionally, the host Hotels
must be ready to demonstrate their preparedness, as well, above the usual
Guest Room considerations. Too much is at stake!
Track Record. In researching potential Destinations, astute
Meeting Planners require data on prior visiting groups/conventions to an
area, contact names, and the “Report Card” for their experience.
Large Convention Hotels, which are often Flag Properties, and some CVB
leaders tend to be myopic on the question of Destination Performance, not
fully appreciating that Guests do leave the host hotel(s) and partake of
activities within the community. Poor service at Guiseppe’s Bistro
or a rude ticket taker or cab driver will nullify an otherwise wonderful
stay at the Grande X Hotel. Meeting Planners hear this first hand,
and they certainly want to understand the experience of other groups to
the area. Reputation cannot rest on the past laurels; it needs to
be demonstrated all the time! Any business which “touches the Visitor”
is either a partner or a suspect.
Destination Disruptions. You could be home to massive construction
activity, civil demonstrations, or even heightened union activity.
Meetings Planners want to know of anything which could disrupt their agenda.
The “Big Dig” in Boston, protests in France, the reconstruction of the
Gulf Coast, and the very real potential of our brethren with UNITE/Here
present true obstacles. The union organizing strategy, by the way,
is not isolated to top tier cities and regions; they are targeting secondary
and tertiary areas of the United States. You cannot hide these realities,
but a Destination must have a ready response, or they will lose the business.
So, “wine and dine me”, astound me “with smoke and mirrors”, but understand
that it is all about the Visitor Experience. Meeting Planners deliver
big time, the competition is intense, and the dynamics are changing.
Rightfully, they are becoming more demanding. A Destination’s Brand
promise will need to adapt, and Hospitality Businesses will be forced to
elevate their performance, as well! The Consumer has spoken, and
the messenger and agent is the Planner.
Issues of Quality/Lack of Standards. Fundamental delivery
on product, service and facility vary greatly. One might assume that
all Guest Rooms are clean, comfortable and accommodating. One should
believe that most Hospitality businesses would be pleased with our patronage,
welcome us graciously, be attentive to our needs, and relish our business.
Successful Meeting Planners are not “dumbed down” with low expectations.
Their livelihood and reputation rest upon a Destination’s delivery on the
promise, and the Hospitality Industry is at the forefront to perform.
The author, John Hendrie, believes that Remarkable Hospitality is the
portal to that memorable Visitor Experience. To learn more, please visit: