Hotel Online Special Report

Hotel Common Sense –
Recognizing the Value of the
“Small Meetings” Markets


by John Hogan, MBA CHA MHS, April 2004

Regardless of the size of a hotel today, it can substantially boost its’ overnight rooms business and its overall profitability by focusing on the small-meeting market.

Surveys taken at almost any time in recent history reflect that the most common type of business (or social) meetings involve less than 50 people. 

For example, Mosvick and Nelson (We’ve Got to Start Meeting like this -1999) quote the following average number of participants at meetings statistics:

of People
Manufacturing 22.7
Finance 19.9
Sales/Marketing 16.5
Human Resources 13.5
General Management 13.1

In times of budget cutting, local business meetings off-site frequently take the place of more exotic locations favored in times of plenty.

While many associations have their annual meetings in large convention hotels, most committee and board meetings can be housed in smaller properties that may not be in large cities.  While these smaller meetings do not fill entire hotels, a block of 10-25 rooms for several nights can be a pleasant bonus, filling valleys in higher demand periods.

Most hotels have at least some space that can be used for meetings.  It could be multi-use space, such as that used for breakfast or social hours. It can be a lounge that is used only in the evening.  It could be a suite parlor or even a traditional room that has a built in hide-away bed. (Today’s options are nothing like the old “Murphy” beds – today’s choices include affordable, designer approved models, complete with bookcases and artwork incorporated within a cabinet).

If there is absolutely no space anywhere in your hotel, you can still partner with someone adjacent to your business.  Many of today’s restaurant chains, ranging from Olive Gardens to family style restaurants like Denny’s have separate portions of their stores that can meet and feed 10-50 people.

Now that you have a place to hold a meeting, how do you find these potential clients?

The list is extensive and many are in your existing base of contacts.  They include your suppliers, your trade organizations, your social networks and local service clubs like Rotary Club or Lions.

Your staff is another base for referrals.  They all belong to churches, PTA type organizations, social or garden clubs, sporting leagues, etc.  These groups need to be able to plan their upcoming events, house outside speakers and meet for a wide range of reasons.  There is no reason your hotel cannot be the meeting spot.

It takes some thought, looking at under-utilized space and discussion with your network of contacts.  The payoff is worth it.

Think Tank
Questions of the day for owners and managers

The following questions are to stimulate discussion about the way we do business.  There is not necessarily only one “correct” answer – the reason for this section of the column is to promote an awareness of how we might all improve our operations.

  1. What organizations do you belong to?  Where do they meet? Why do they meet there?
  2. How often does anyone call your hotel asking for meeting space for just a few people for a few hours?
  3. Your system gives you REVPAR each month - when was the last time you honestly looked at all the space in your hotel and evaluated ways to enhance revenue fro existing space?
  4. Rather than getting frustrated with the erosion of some markets, have you tracked the smaller meetings demand in your` market and decided to attack it?
  5. Do you ask your staff for leads?  Do you ever personally meet with existing customers when they are having coffee in the morning and find out if they have small meeting needs?  Small talk here can pay off in large dividends through undetected needs.
  6. We all have a home town paper………………….do we have someone do the steps outlined in this article to “find” some prospects that use meeting space …..with some research and follow-up, they could become paying guests at your hotel. 

Comments about the Think Tank question or other related topic are always welcome.
Contact me at

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication or of Best Western International.  A variation of this article appeared in LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES.

John Hogan, MBA CHA MHS is the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for Best Western International, the world’s largest hotel chain.  Best Western International has more than 4,200 hotels in more than 80 countries and is one of the world’s oldest organized hotel brands, founded in 1946 in California.

He serves on several industry boards that deal with education and/or cultural diversity including the Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute, the AH&LA Multicultural Advisory Council, the AAHOA Education and eCommerce Committee and is the Best Western liaison to the NAACP and the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association with his ongoing involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.

He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts and an MBA from the University of Northern Washington.  His professional experience includes over 30 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development and asset management on both a single and multi-property basis.  He is a Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA), a Master Hotel Supplier (MHS) and is a past recipient of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Pearson Award For Excellence in Lodging Journalism.  He has served as President of both city and state hotel associations.

John’s background includes teaching college level courses as an adjunct professor for 20 years, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independents hotels.  Prior to joining Best Western International in spring of 2000, he was the principal in an independent training & consulting group for more than 12 years serving associations, management groups, convention & visitors’ bureaus, academic institutions and as an expert witness.  He has conducted an estimated 3,000 workshops and seminars in his career to date.

He has published more than 175 articles & columns on the hotel industry and is co-author (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available on from MPI   and other industry sources. 

He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and is finalizing work on his Ph. D. which includes a 2nd book – The Top 100 People of All Time Who Influenced and Changed the Hotel Industry. 


John Hogan, MBA CHA MHS 
Director of Education and Cultural Diversity
 Best Western International
20400 N. 29th Avenue 
Phoenix, AZ 85027 
Fax 623-780-6831

"...we all need a regular dose of common sense "

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