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   Ten Meeting Industry Trends Observed by
Benchmark Resorts, Hotels & Conference Centers
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THE WOODLANDS, TEXAS, January 2, 2002…Benchmark Hospitality, which manages 25 award-winning resorts and conference centers in the United States, Canada and Japan, has released the following meeting industry trends for 2002, as observed by its properties.

Trend 1:  Staying closer to home

Companies are holding their meetings closer to home as resistance to air-travel continues in the wake of September 11, 2001.  Conferees are being offered incentives, by their employers, for driving or taking motor coaches to meeting venues in an effort to avoid travel by air.  

In some cases, attendees are choosing to drive 6 + hours to attend a meeting in order to avoid flying.  Also, many annual company-wide meetings are being split into regional events held closer to home.

Trend 2:   Booking pace – “Short-term becoming even shorter”

Clients are signing meeting contracts at the very last minute, and only after attendance has been confirmed, in order to avoid attrition or cancellation fees.  

Major annual meetings are now being planned within the year for the year ... as budgets are undergoing extreme corporate scrutiny.

Additionally, properties continue to cope with sizable cancellations.

Trend 3:  Decreasing meeting budgets, meeting length, meeting size

Meeting budgets and program length continue to be on the decline as companies re-evaluate expenses and suppliers step up the competition for customers, winning business with lower rates.  The market today is buyer driven, with planners actively negotiating the very best deal, and looking for added value.  For repeat programs, 2002 budgets are less than that of the year before.  

Weeklong meetings of the past are currently being reduced to 2-3 days in length.  These meetings now have a limit of one banquet or private dining event per conference instead of two or more such events per meeting as was common in previous years.  

When dinner or lunch is consumed off site, credits for the meal component of the Complete Meeting Package are more actively requested by planners than was the case previously.

Meeting groups have diminished in size – 20-25 persons per conference -- although this is not a drastic reduction.  Large annual meetings are being split into smaller quarterly meetings. 

Trend 4:  Third-party meeting planners 

Third-party meeting planners continue to manage increasingly more conferences.  These planners identify meeting venues, negotiate contracts for space, arrange transportation, schedule theme events and provide entertainment, often attending the meeting as well.

Trend 5:  Videoconferencing 

This face-to-face meeting alternative seems to have been a reactionary approach following the events of September 11, 2001.  Currently, the demand for videoconferencing has tapered off.  

When this technology is used, it is for smaller groups of less than ten persons.

Trend 6:  Meetings being held tend to have a serious training component

The vast majority of meetings being held today are serious training sessions.  Except for the pharmaceutical industry, very few companies are holding new product introduction or launch sessions. Incentive and weekend meetings have dipped also.  

The focus of meetings today is on effective training environments -- to maximize use of time and the overall meeting investment.

Trend 7:  Teambuilding remains popular 

Even in a slower economy, companies remain willing to invest in creative teambuilding programs.  Demands are for increased innovation in these programs beyond the traditional high & low rope courses of the past.  

Unique culinary teambuilding programs, food & wine tasting sessions, and spa-related events such as reflexology sessions are popular today.  

Trend 8: Technology demands increase

Demand for use of T-1 lines and Internet access remains strong.  LCD projectors are essentially standard today and demand for LAN lines to link laptops of all attending participants is increasing.  A data port in each meeting room and guestroom is standard today.  Many guests, especially from the high-tech industry, are looking for high-speed Internet connections as well.  

PowerPoint presentations remain commonplace in most meetings.  Interesting, low-tech flip charts also remain a very popular tool.

Trend 9:  Internet bookings rise

The use of the Internet to review meeting venues and to actually book meetings continues to increase each year, with some properties booking 2-3 meetings per month via the Internet.  Email usage for requesting and delivering contracts is steadily increasing as well.  

Trend 10:  Significant cut back in food & beverage events

Consistent with decreasing meeting budgets and increasing scrutiny of expenses, there has been a significant cutback in private and themed dinners and private dining events.   More than ever before, companies are requiring their conferees to make use of the meal components of the Complete Meeting Package.  If a meal is taken off site, properties are being required to provide a meal credit to the Complete Meeting Package for that day.

Benchmark Hospitality, an international hospitality management company based in The Woodlands, Texas, operates luxury resorts, hotels, and conference centers throughout the United States, in Canada, and Japan. 

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Contact:

Ken Ellens
Ken Ellens Communications
(201) 840-8036
KenEllens@aol.com
www.benchmarkhospitality.com

Also See Businesses Turn to Videoconferencing, Webcasts; Ripple Effects Cascade Down to Hotels / Sept 2001 
Benchmark Hospitality Responds with Free Videoconferencing; Addresses Travel Restrictions and Meeting Budget Reductions / October 2001 
Laurence Geller's Provocative Outlook on the Hotel Industry - Strategic Hotel Capital CEO's Speech at New York University's Eighth Annual Stephen W. Brener Distinguished Lecturer Series / December 2001 


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