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 Benchmark Hospitality Internationalís
2009 Top Ten Meeting Trends
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The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, March 2009 Ö Benchmark Hospitality International, a leading hospitality management company which operates 30 award-winning conference hotels, resorts, and conference centers in locations coast-to-coast and in Asia, announces its "Top Ten Meeting Trends for 2009," as observed by its properties. 

Trend #1 
The Business of Meetings is Business

This year more than ever before, the business of meetings is straight-up ROI.  Thereís not a lot of room for leisure and extracurricular play in the current meeting environment where every single dollar is measured for its contribution to the success of the overall conference.

Meetings have never been more serious, focused, or strategic -- or more regional, for that matter, as transportation expenses are trimmed.  Itís good news for conference centers, which are all about serious meeting environments.

Trend #2 
Itís Not Easy to be Green Ö

Itís not easy to be green Ö or at least itís not easy to be green in a challenged economy!  It isnít that planners no longer care about the green status of a property Ė itís just that they are a whole lot more focused at present on securing that property at the best price possible for their next meeting.  

In 2009, price trumps green.

Trend #3 
Weíll Get Back to you in Six Months

Across Benchmark Hospitalityís portfolio, the first half of 2009 is proving to be a challenge with a lot of in-the-month-for-the-month meetings booked.  Push-back on pricing is universal and meeting lengths are being shaved by a day, on average.

Things are looking up in the 2nd half of 2009 though.  Booking pace is in recovery for the second half of the year and 2010 is on target and looking healthy.  

Trend #4 
Stuffed, Packed, Studded with Value!   

The demise of the complete meeting package is greatly exaggerated!  For the most part, demand remains strong and the value of the package Ė and in Benchmarkís case the companyís branded Benchmark Conference Plan -- is recognized.  But packages are expected to be loaded with value, add-on benefits, and, get this, thereís a growing demand for double occupancy.  

Although packages are negotiated with the usual rates, dates and space considerations, todayís negotiations linger on and on and on with planners watching every penny as meeting budgets are cut from 10 percent to slash & burn proportions.  Every meeting dollar must be measurable and welcome receptions, afternoons of leisure, and special dinner events are out.  Working lunches and dinners, regional gatherings, doubling up in guestrooms, and value-added options are whatís in this year!

Trend #5 
Believe It or Not, Teambuilding Remains!

Teambuilding is not D.O.A. this year as has been the case in other soft economies and demand is projected to increase in 2010. 

Planners are negotiating hard on price, and fewer sessions are being scheduled this year over last, but companies continue to see value in the team-enrichment benefits offered through creative teambuilding programming, such as corporate social responsibility initiatives.  In these exercises, groups are creatively brought together to accomplish a task as a team that also benefits a local or national charitable organization.  Often the task is outside the norm of the groupís daily activities, and requires them to constructively pull together as a team to accomplish the assignment, frequently with new leadership patterns emerging.

Trend #6 
Tea for Two (make it herbal), Tee Times for Twenty

Maybe not this year.  Tight budgets and serious meeting environments are taking their toll on extracurricular activities once so popular.  

Thereís no problem getting a spa or tee time this year, but it will be on the confereeís own dime and it better not be scheduled over a conference session.   Not that thereís anything wrong with a round of golf, a manicure or an herbal wrap, but in 2009 itís about perception.

Trend #7 
I Plan, Therefore I Am

Once again the industry is consolidating.  Planning is increasingly seen as a part-time function Ö with planning responsibilities loaded on already overwhelmed administrative personnel and department heads.  And third party planners are re-emerging.

Conference Service Managers have never been more important or more welcome by this growing group of planners.  Their one-stop planning resources and services, coupled with a purpose-designed learning environment, streamline the conference planning process, helping even the most inexperienced planner deliver a first-rate, productive meeting at a time when this is of maximum importance.

Trend #8 
Three Squares a Day.  Thatís it!

Gone are the welcome receptions, theme dinners and special luncheons.  Plannersí meal requests are pretty much limited to three square meals a day and thatís it.  

Companies are even asking that refreshment breaks be scaled back to downplay perceptions of extravagance.  Where there are special requests by planners theyíre about healthy options and fresh ingredients foraged locally.

Trend #9 
The Silver Lining

Thatís right Ö thereís a silver lining and itís found within select market segments where meeting demand is growing.  These include government, military and defense-related meetings, as well as education, state associations and religious market gatherings.   Perhaps this should make sense in these times.

Thereís more.  The medical, biotech and pharmaceutical segments remain strong too.  Serious market segments for serious times, it seems Ė perfect for serious meeting environments.

Trend #10 
Getting Serious About Learning Environments

Productive meeting environments have never been more put to the test or proven their worth more actively than right now.  In a business environment where every dollar Ė every penny for that matter -- is meaningful and expected to yield a measurable ROI, dedicated meeting environments like conference centers deliver and planners are turning to them. 

Ok, they may lack the glamour of center city hotels, or the status of landmark properties, or the sex-appeal of exotic resorts, but thatís a unique selling proposition these days.

Conference centers deliver on the promise of a dedicated and focused learning environment, are wired for maximum productivity, provide high quality yet non-extravagant food & beverage, offer pleasant and comfortable guestroom accommodations, and importantly, provide dedicated conference service support.  In short, serious meeting environments for serious times.

To learn more about the value and productivity of dedicated meeting environments, reference the premier global organization governing the conference center industry, which today spans five continents -- the International Association of Conference Centers, www.iacconline.org.
      
For more information on Benchmark's "Top Ten Meeting Trends for 2009," or to speak with a Benchmark Hospitality International representative, contact Ken Ellens, Ken Ellens Communications, at 201-758-2864 or KenEllens@aol.com.

Benchmark Hospitality International is a leader in the management and marketing of resorts, conference centers, hotels, and Personal Luxury Hotelsô.  The privately held company, launched in 1980, is a founding member of the International Association of Conference Centers.  Benchmark Hospitality is a worldwide organization operating properties in major metropolitan and resort destinations.  Benchmark's international headquarters is located in The Woodlands, Texas, near Houston, with regional offices in New Jersey and Connecticut.  International offices are located in Tokyo, Japan, and Santiago, Chile. For the location of Benchmarkís properties and additional information, visit www.benchmarkhospitality.com.  

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Contact:

Ken Ellens
Ken Ellens Communications 
201-758-2864 / 201-758-2865-Fax
KenEllens@aol.com
 

Also See: Benchmark Hospitality Internationalís Top Five Dining Trends for 2009; Plus Five Cocktail Trends / December 2008
Benchmark Hospitality Internationalís 2008 Top Ten Meetings Trends / March 2008
Benchmark Hospitality's Top 10 Meeting Trends for 2007; Portals to Success, Package Rules, BlackBerries & More / March 2007
Benchmark's Top Ten Hospitality Trends For 2006 / March 2006
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