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Happy Sweet 16 Greenfield: lessons from 16 years in business

Sixteen years ago today we signed incorporation papers for Greenfield Hospitality Services Inc. (now known as Greenfield Services Inc.). What a ride it's been helping hotels, DMOs and other meetings industry suppliers grow their business!

Now that we've blown out the candles on the cake, let's have a look at some of the changes in the meetings industry since our inception in 1997:

The loss of control to new channels of distribution: OnlineTravel Agencies (OTAs) have gained an impressive share of hotels and resorts' business since the late 90s. It has become increasingly difficult for hotels and meeting planners themselves to prevent convention delegates from checking Hotwire for cheaper rates and booking outside the group block.

And then there's the whole evolution of revenue/yield management, which could be a series of blog posts all on their own... The lesson? It's increasingly difficult for a hotel Director of Sales & Marketing to control his/her turf and truly make a difference with marketing tactics and leadership.

Competition from unexpected sources: in a recent MarketWatch article entitled "Will Aunt Mary's apartment lower Marriott's prices?" AirBNB was described as a real force to contend with in the global lodging industry, arguably the largest brand in the world with 660,000 listings, in 34,000 cities, and 192 countries (March 2014 statistics according to the AirBnB website itself). While many hoteliers are dismissing the "sharing economy" as a fringe trend, one pundit at the recent Hotel Association of Canada Conference referred to AirBnB, and other sharing sites as a "real threat to traditional lodging and meeting facilities."

The lesson? The competition is no longer the hotel across the street or the city in that other province or state.  Technology is bringing pitting your hotel against competitors you never knew existed.

Salespeople who don't know how to sell: okay, I admit, this one is making me sound 100-years old, but I see too many hotel sales people nowadays just don't know how to sell. They send mass emails after a tradeshow, without even bothering to qualify the list to see if attendees have any potential for their facility or destination. They are afraid to pick up the phone.  They send inappropriate LinkedIn connection requests without attempting to forge a proper relationship with a meeting planner.

The lesson? The hotel industry probably only has itself to blame for this development. For years, hotel salespeople have been grossly underpaid and under trained.  And don't think this has anything to do with age; I've seen "veteran" salespeople be guilty of all the above behaviours.  We need to get back to basics, focus on relationship building and elevating the conversation.

Higher planner expectations and a diminishing regard for ethics: and then there are ever-demanding meeting planners looking for perks, points, and purses. We've always had planners looking for comps and upgrades for their group bookings but now there are increasing expectations for loyalty points and personal gifts. Recently I heard of "client appreciation" events that involved purse and shoe shopping! There seems to be an ever increasing competition in the planner-wooing business and I worry how such inducements simply are crossing the ethical line... Is it any wonder why, at the same time, planners are showing disrespect by no-showing at our events?

The lesson? It's getting harder for hotel and venue suppliers to garner respect.  But those who take the high road do win, in the end.  Keep planners accountable (by calling them on no-shows, for instance) and provide education, not just entertainment

That's four major developments that have affected hotels and meeting venues from our vantage point. We have more to share over the next few posts. We'd love to hear your thoughts about changes in the meetings industry in the last 16 years!