By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. (www.hotelmogel.com)
A clever portmanteau between business and leisure, hybrid travel is now mainstream, so much so that it is starting to influence how meeting planners select their destinations and host hotels. After all, in a world where video conferencing can connect anyone, anywhere and at any time, the purpose of travel is to offer guests a unique and stimulating setting.
The bleisure incentive has thus far been the prospect of extending a few days on either end of the main event to fully appreciate said location. However, the demand for heightened experiences on the leisure side are starting to creep into the business segment as travelers yearn for the same level of excitement from their meetings or conferences that they get from their personal time.
Knowing that experiences are important to guests of all segments will help to clue you into the fact that your meetings and groups business can no longer solely rely on price, locations and essential services as the driving forces for sales. You need to offer something extraordinary, an activity that gets all five senses working or a signature moment that differentiates your product from all others.
After all, if all you have to compete on are the three abovementioned points, then know that meeting planners and the organizations they represent are often quite flexible on the location of their events nowadays, they will continue to gouge you for better rates or discount until the overall deal is hardly profitable and all of your essential services can inevitably be copied by another property with the right amount of training.
The only way to survive is through the addition of experiential and emotional elements to your meetings and events, but this is far easier said than done. That’s why I stress not to try and reinvent the wheel right off the bat.
Start slow with this new initiative through little touch points to augment any conference or event. Knowing that your business guests probably don’t have a full two extra days to fill up with 12-hour excursions, you will want to investigate what short-term activities – that is, taking up less than two- or three-hours’ time – you can utilize as complements to your meeting packages. Here are some ideas:
- Incorporating onsite activities that can include teambuilding exercises or even F&B components like group tastings that feature local goods
- Cooperating with tour operators or building these internally so that business guests have the opportunity for a quick morning or afternoon sojourn to get them out of the meeting room
- Developing local retail partnerships that can provide your groups with exclusive discounts at their outlets or those that can visit your property
- Capitalizing on the wellness trend by offering a slate of spa bundles, healthy dining options, fitness classes or other forms of informative group sessions
- Promoting bleisure-driven room packages so that meeting planners and their groups are incentivized to experience more of what you have to offer before they even book
- Rethinking the physical design of your meeting, conference and event spaces to imbue more emotionality and interactivity like wall art, visually stimulating furniture or tabletop gaming units
Aside from the last point, none of these will necessitate any untenable capital expenditures if you develop a long-term plan to gradually incorporate experiences into meetings and groups. With every destination and every hotel having a different situation, what I stress is that when strategizing about this topic, you should look to ‘own’ one singular element rather than try to do everything at once.
What makes your area truly special? What is your hotel already doing that’s exceptional? How can your property become known for being the absolute best at one particular activity? If you are able to answer these questions, then that’s a great place to start developing your experiential meetings program.
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Editor’s note: To discuss business challenges or speaking engagements please contact Larry directly.