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What's on the Meetings Industry Horizon for 2011?

horizon, binoculars
In the last few weeks I have been speaking with many hospitality and CVB sales & marketing executives about how 2010 was for them, and how they foresee 2011.  Here's what I have been hearing:
  1. Demand is improving. Since most hotels had severely downgraded their expectations going into the year, most managers are telling me they will either meet or slightly exceed their budget this year.  Regions across North America are reporting modest increases in demand, especially in the latter part of 2010.  This trend is reported by a recent Starcite e-newsletter and the U.S. Travel Association.

  2. Rates stay flat, at least for first half of 2011.  During most of 2010 meeting & event planners were able to drive a hard bargain and in most areas, they got what they wanted.  While suppliers in the Northeast and Canada are still cautious for the first quarter of 2011, many have told me they will be pushing up rates for the second half of 2011 or sooner if they can.

  3. Fewer concessions. What seems to be taken off the table already are the concessions.  In our Benchmarking Study this fall, planners were reporting getting fewer value-added perks.  Most affected seemed to be those who have higher meeting-space-to-bedroom ratios.  Throughout 2009 and most of 2010, they were able to find suitable space for their groups.  Now many hotels are holding the line and refusing to give up precious meeting rooms for small blocks.  For those planners, finding suitable space has replaced budget as their primary concern.

  4. Will planners still be able to pull things out of the hat? As the market shifts to a sellers' market and occupancy is tightening up, several meetings industry pundits were wondering recently how planners' ability to "pull things out of the hat" during the recession might come back to haunt them.  In the last few years senior executives were able to call last minute meetings, often for fairly large groups.  Planners would scramble, but usually succeeded in finding suitable space and at good rates.  One Helms-Briscoe Director I spoke to last week admitted that he hopes his meeting planner clients don't suffer their corporate bosses' wrath when space is either unavaible or at much higher prices.
What are YOU seeing on the horizon for 2011 and beyond?  Let us know what you think!