Hotels Show Renewed Interest In
Life Science Industry Meetings

By David M. Brudney, ISHC, July 2009

I was invited recently to speak at a life science industry (LSI) meetings conference in Philadelphia end of the year.  Puzzled, I asked the conference manager why in the world he would want a hospitality sales and marketing consultant to speak at such an event.

Apparently, the announced conference title, “Evolving Sales Strategies for Hotels Targeting the Life Science Industry” resonated very well with hotel senior management who plan on sending hundreds of sales associates to attend.  I was told that their most recent conference attracted a wide range of hotel and destination sales professionals keenly interested in capturing a greater share of pharmaceutical and biotech organization and company meetings.

My immediate independent research led me to believe that there are four (4) factors involved in driving hotel interest for this particular conference:

  • The current economic and competitive environment has caused hotels to explore every possible segment within the group conventions and meetings market
  • Impact of millions of U.S. dollars lost from cancelled and deferred meetings since the recession and in the fallout from the AIG event last September 
  • Possible misinformation among hotel suppliers on LSI conference restrictions, physician attendance,  and the boycotting altogether of four and five star resorts and
  • Eagerness to become educated on the new PhRMA code and other state and federal regulations at a venue surrounded by LSI meeting management professionals
I was impressed also with what I learned from my search of the conference management’s database of attendees from a previous event held earlier this year.  I found hundreds of names of sales and marketing vice presidents, sales and marketing directors, group sales directors, sales managers, regional and national sales managers, and sales associates representing every major hotel brand, leading independents and DMOs from all over the U.S. and the Western Caribbean.

We discussed the role the conference manager envisioned for me to play.  I would be conducting a three-hour morning workshop covering best strategies, tools and techniques for selling LSI meeting management professionals.

It seems that LSI meeting management professionals have an extremely high interest in partnering with hotels that have been educated on understanding the new PhRMA code and other relevant regulations.

Here are some of the valuable takeaways for those hotel and DMO suppliers that attend:

  • Cutting through the confusion and misinformation about the PhRMA code and its impact on hotels and resorts that covet convention and meeting business
  • Clear understanding of PhRMA code compliance, R.O.I. deliverables, relationship management - - and that the code is voluntary!
  • Clear understanding of what are the specific needs hotels must meet in order to book the LSI industry business
  • Knowledge gained on how certain hotel costs can be reduced by working together
  • Knowledge of F&B code limitations, customizing LSI-friendly menus
  • Knowledge gained on why and how LSI meeting planners are required to “unplan” a booked meeting
  • Why high-end hotels and resorts with four and five star ratings are not necessarily “off-limits” to LSI meetings and events
  • What those four and five star properties can do to compete successfully for LSI meetings and events
No surprise about the new PhRMA code confusion and negative impact on certain types of off-site venues - - certainly not after resort marketers read Martha Collins’ piece “New PhRMA Code: the Impact on Medical Meetings”, Meetings Magazine, September 1, 2008: “Another aspect affected by the code is site selection . . . for face-to-face meetings produced by pharma companies,” writes Collins.  “The previous code said that venues had to be conducive to the meeting but did not specifically prohibit resorts, although it suggested other venues might be more appropriate.”

Collins wrote that under the new code, resorts are “verboten” for events such as speaker-training and consultant meetings.  “Most pharma companies have been avoiding lavish venues since the first code came out, Collins said.  “We already have a plan that clearly outlines appropriate properties,” Collins quotes Joann Kerns, associate director of global meeting management, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Plainsboro, NJ.  Kerns adds, “We don't go to resorts. We don't go to five-star or five-diamond hotels.” 

Hotels are eager to learn about the whole issue of interpretation of the new code and not lose sight of the fact the code is voluntarily enforced.  All the more reasons hotel sales associates should be attending educational conferences like the upcoming LSI one in Philadelphia.  I believe there are ideas, concepts and packages that all hotel suppliers and LSI meeting planners can develop working together.  Good time to cut through the misinformation and confusion, get the facts, and engage in dialogue with the presenters and the attending meeting management professionals.  For more information and details, visit www.cbinet.com.  

Everyone involved with off-site meetings—meeting management professionals, hotel and all venue suppliers alike—should revisit the U.S. Travel Association site http://meetingsmeanbusiness.com/ to learn more about the importance of meetings to the U.S. economic recovery and how what Bill Marriott calls the “vilification” of business events by the media and elected officials have contributed to the thousands of U.S. jobs lost and billions lost in annual tax revenues at every level.

And let’s keep in mind what business leaders are saying about the importance of these business events. Meetings and events provide the highest ROI of any marketing channel, according to a recent survey of Fortune 1,000 chief marketing officers and reported by the USTA. Meetings are part of the solution, according to the USTA. Revenue generated by meetings and events is good for the economy and will help establish travel as part of the recovery solution.

Correction.  I gave kudos to The Breakers Palm Beach in last month’s column.  The resort did not reduce any of its staff from 40 hours to 30 hours on a permanent basis.  The cutbacks I addressed were for the period of time the cancelled group would have been meeting.  The ten hours of community service was paid for out of the cancellation fees collected from the group.      

© Copyright 2009

David M. Brudney, ISHC, is a veteran hospitality sales and marketing professional concluding his fourth decade of service to the hospitality industry.  Brudney advises lodging owners, lenders, asset managers and operators on hotel sales and marketing “best practices” and conducts reviews of hospitality (as well as other industry) sales and marketing operations throughout the U.S. and overseas.  The principal of David Brudney & Associates of Carlsbad, CA, a sales and marketing consulting firm specializing in the hospitality industry since 1979, Brudney is a frequent lecturer, instructor and speaker.  He is a charter member of International Society of Hospitality Consultants.  Previously, Brudney held hospitality sales and marketing positions with Hyatt, Westin and Marriott.


David M. Brudney, ISHC, Principal 
David Brudney & Associates 
Carlsbad, CA 
760-476-0830 Fax 760-476-0860 
(c) 760-994-9266

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