When it comes to trends, the fashion industry has Fashion Week. Advertising has its Pantone Color of the Year. We corporate travel planners have a crystal ball. Not really, but being entrenched in group travel and meeting planning as we are, we do know a trend when we see one. And here’s what we see impacting group meetings in 2014. If you’ve flipped through an industry or trade magazine (any one will do) lately, you’d think Las Vegas was the numero uno city for meeting travel. The city seems to be making a hard and heavy marketing push to attract even more conferences and conventions than they currently host. We can’t help but think that the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” reputation might not set well with corporations that would prefer their people actually bring home some information and a little extra knowledge.
Perhaps that’s why meeting planners ranked Orlando, Florida first as the meeting destination of choice in 2014. It’s the second year in a row, according to American Express Meetings & Events. San Diego, Atlanta and Chicago have gained popularity, while Miami and our nation’s capital have slipped.
Hotels may be where attendees are resting their heads, but they’re not necessarily where they’re meeting. We expect a lot of hotels’ conference rooms and convention areas to gather dust. Zoos, aquariums, museums, event centers, outdoor facilities, etc. (you get the picture) are being considered more and more as meeting planners seek properties that take events up a notch. Publicity and promotional meeting planners will lead this charge in an effort to draw more attendees with “outside the conference room” event spaces.
With budgets driving meeting planning, the popular “Shop local. Buy local” mentality is impacting the choice of destinations. “Do business local. Meet local.” Depending on the number of attendees, not only are meeting travel planners booking events nearby the host, but even in company facilities. While lower meeting and travel costs are attractive, so too is reducing the amount of time employees are away from work.
Companies holding meetings across the state, country or world will seek ways to control costs. Taking advantage of group rates for accommodations and group fares for air travel can mean substantial savings. The best way to access those group discounts is to work with meeting planners who have the clout of an international travel management companies behind them. CIRE Travel is an affiliate of First in Service Travel.
Apps and social media will play a larger role in meetings, leading up to the event, during the meetings and post event follow up. Social media and mobile applications are now so commonly accessed in both work and personal lives that it makes sense to incorporate their outreach to meetings and events. Though they’re relatively new in the corporate event landscape, widespread acceptance by attendees is a logical assumption. Meeting planners and their clients who get in front of this wave will reap the rewards of being seen as early adopters, encouraging interaction and improving productivity with little effort. Once the app is developed and the social media stage set, much of the quick communication is handled with very little effort.
Communication technology. Budgets. Efficiency and productivity. Building and maintaining relationships. How we approach meeting planning has changed, but the necessity to hold corporate meetings and events hasn’t. As we move into 2014, controlling expenses and achieving goals aren’t trendy. They’re necessities that require a strategic meeting planner who can balance trends with proven experience in what works. And powerful connections in the airline, hotel and entertainment industries never hurt either.