Hotel Online  Special Report

Understanding the Recovery Occurring
in the Meeting’s Market
Surveying the Meeting Planners
by: Robert Mandelbaum, December 2004

During the recent industry recession, convention hotels have suffered more than any other property type covered in PKF Consulting’s Trends in the Hotel Industry reports.  The typical convention hotel showed a staggering 40 percent decline in profits during the past three years.  From 2000 to 2003, convention hotel revenue has declined 17.4 percent, the result of 9.8 percent declines in both occupancy and average daily room rate.  Compounding the negative effects of the decline in revenue were the relatively minimal cuts in operating expenses.  Given the large complexity, size, and labor requirements of convention hotels, management at these behemoths were only able to cut their operating costs by 5.2 percent in response to the declining revenues.  The net result was that 40.0 percent profit drop.

For convention hotels, the return of corporate and association meetings will drive their recovery.  In its heyday, the meetings business accounted for 51 percent of the total room nights occupied at these hotels.  For convention business to begin to boom again, both corporate budgets and personal pocketbooks must expand to stimulate increased meeting production and attendee travel.

To get an update on the current status of the meetings market, PKF Consulting, on behalf of Convention South magazine, surveyed 100 meeting planners throughout the nation that conduct meetings in the Southeast region.  The mix of the planners was as follows:

  • 17% - Corporate
  • 57% - Association
  • 11% - Independent
  • 15% - Other
In total, these planners will have been responsible for planning 2,813 meetings and 522 exhibitions in 2004.

To better understand the recovery that is occurring in the meeting’s market, as well as familiarize hotel operators with the current thinking of meeting planners, we present the following highlights of our survey.

Number of Events

The majority of planners polled believe that the number of events they will coordinate in 2005 will be the same as the amount planned in 2004.  However, we have seen an increase in the percentage of planners anticipating a rise in events coordinated in 2005.  The planners responsible for meetings appear to be more bullish than the planners that coordinate exhibitions.  Chart A shows the expectations of meeting planners regarding the number of events they will coordinate in 2004 and 2005.

Chart A 
Percent of Meeting Planners
Source: Convention South, The Hospitality Research Group
While a majority planners believe that the number of their events has stabilized, they are a bit more optimistic with regards to the attendance at their meetings.  Most (44.2 percent) meeting planners believe that attendance at recent meetings has met their expectations.  However, an increasing number of planners (30.5% in 2004 vs 15.8% in 2003) have seen meeting attendance exceed their expectations in recent years.

More Money and Time

Two more indicators of the increased confidence meeting planners have when looking towards the future are the increases noted for booking lead times and event budgets.

An increasing number of meeting planners are receiving larger budgets to hold meetings (see Chart B).  The percentage of planners noting an increase in their budgeted per attendee expenditures grew from 38.1 percent (for their 2004 budgets) to 45.4 percent (for their 2005 budgets).  Given the previously noted increases in expected attendance, combined with the increases in per delegate budgets, it can be assumed that these corporations and associations believe that meetings are an important part of their operations and deserve greater investment.

Chart B 
Percent of Meeting Planners
Source: Convention South, The Hospitality Research Group
The increase in booking lead times is another indication that meeting planners are more assured of coordinating a growing number of events in the future.  Although the growth in lead time has not been dramatic, the trend has been moving upward each year from 21.6 months in 2002 to 23.4 months in 2004.


Having had more leverage during negations from 2001 through 2003, meeting planners were in a stronger position to express their thoughts regarding the service they received at meeting sites.  Given this opportunity to be candid, it is worth noting that the majority of meeting planners (62.0 percent) have not perceived a change in the quality level of service they have received.  Knowing the cuts in staffing and amenities that hotels have had to make in the past few years, this is somewhat encouraging.  In addition, more planners (22.8 percent) believe service levels have improved, as opposed to declining (15.2 percent).


Hotels have invested a lot of time and money in technology for guest use.  Investments have been made in both guest room and meeting room technology.  Fortunately for hotel owners, this investment appears to have paid off in the minds of meeting planners.  The majority of respondents (69.2 percent) indicated that they have been satisfied or very satisfied with the technology at their meeting sites.

Measuring the importance of technology within a hotel, meeting planners appear to be more concerned with the technology that is available for use by their attendees in the guest room, as opposed to the meeting room.  For example, high-speed internet connectivity in the meeting room was rated as very important or essential by just 40.2 percent of the planners.  On the other hand, the availability of the same technology in meeting rooms was rated as very important or essential by 52.1 percent of the respondents.

Wireless technology (Wi-Fi) has been a hot-button technology issue for hoteliers in the past years.  While this technology is believed to be of great importance for individual business travelers, meeting planners do not perceive it to be so vital.  Close to eighty percent of the planners surveyed ranked wireless connectivity in both meeting rooms and guest room as only somewhat important or unimportant.

Percent Of Respondents

. High Speed Internet Connectivity Wireless Internet Connectivity Video
Downlink Capability LCD Projectors
Unimportant 20.7% 32.3% 68.8% 54.3% 9.7%
Somewhat Important 39.1% 47.3% 23.7% 28.7% 24.7%
Very Important 21.7% 17.2% 3.2% 12.8% 15.1%
Essential 18.5% 3.2% 4.3% 4.2% 50.5%
Percent Of Respondents
. High Speed Internet Connectivity Wireless Internet Connectivity Fax / Copiers In-Room Compurters In-Room Printers
Unimportant 19.2% 34.1% 71.3% 69.9% 67.0%
Somewhat Important 28.7% 35.2% 25.5% 23.7% 26.6%
Very Important 28.7% 30.7% 3.2% 5.4% 6.4%
Essential 23.4% 0.0% 0.0% 1.0% 0.0%
Source: Convention South, The Hospitality Research Group

Barring catastrophic events, we believe that the meetings market segment should rebound along with the corporate travel market during the next few years.  However, because of the necessary lead times for most meetings, convention hotels might not recognize the optimism shown in today’s survey until a few years out.

Other research conducted by PKF Consulting has found that current market conditions do influence the tenor of current contract negotiations for future meetings.  Therefore, look for the pendulum of negotiating leverage to begin to sway back towards the hotel sales manager as occupancies and average room rates grow in the next few years.

Robert Mandelbaum is the Director of Research Information Services for the Hospitality Research Group of PKF Consulting.  He is located in the firm’s Atlanta office.


Robert Mandelbaum
Director of Research Information Services
The Hospitality Research Group
3340 Peachtree Road, Suite 580
Atlanta, GA 30326
(404) 842-1150, ext 223

Also See: First Half 2004 Hotel Profits Solidify 2005 Outlook; Industry Still Lags Far Behind its Past Peak Performance in 1998 / HRG & PKF Consulting / December 2004
Room Rates Across the Top 50 Hotel Markets in the U.S. Will Increase by 3.7% in 2004; Five Highest and Five Lowest Average Daily Room Rate Hotel Markets in 2005 / December 2004
Perspectives on the Road to Recovery - U.S. Lodging Industry 2005 / HRG & PKF Consulting / November 2004
Other Revenue Is Good Revenue / Robert Mandelbaum / November 2004
Uncanny! Hotel Occupancies “Key Indicator” of Presidential Election Outcome / October 2004
Is the Hotel Industry Smart Enough to Avoid Overbuilding; Ten Reasons Why Real Estate Markets Become Overbuilt / Jack B. Corgel / July 2004
PKF Consulting/HRG Survey Forecasts Banner Year for Hotel Transactions; Investors Favoring the Full-service Segment / May 2004
First Uptick for Hotel Industry in Three Years; Full-Service Hotels Lead the Way In U.S. Hotel Profits for 2004 / Hospitality Research Group / March 2004
Demand in the Full-service Hotel Sector is Expected to Increase by 6.3% in 2004; Best and Worst Hotel Markets in Terms of RevPAR Growth / PKF Consulting / January 2004

To search Hotel Online data base of News and Trends Go to Hotel.Online Search

Home | Welcome! | Hospitality News | Classifieds | Catalogs & Pricing | Viewpoint Forum | Ideas/Trends
Please contact Hotel.Online with your comments and suggestions.