Post authored by Gary Schirmacher, CMP.
Up, Increase, Better than Last Year, Growth, Busier than Ever, Tight Lead Times are some of the new words and phrases in today’s meetings world. As we finish the first half of 2010, where many hoteliers and planners are reconciling where they stand after six months of this “new normal,” there are some very encouraging indicators. We at Experient are seeing significant increases in our key “Year over Year” statistics including the number of meetings booked and number of contracts processed. During the last week of June in 2010, hotels and cities were negotiating deals and Experient processed 25% more contracts than in the same period in 2009. And that was only 9% behind what was processed in late June, 2008.
It’s important to remember how fragile our industry is and the dramatic impact nature can have on our business. So far this year, we’ve survived 58 floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and cyclones worldwide. Here in the United States, meetings have been affected by weather, the economy, and legislation.
When you throw-in a fragile economy and rising costs, those outside of our business probably think we were just lucky to continue seeing a 30% increase in the number of meetings booked at many hotels and destinations. My feelings are that it’s not luck. It’s hard work, with an ever-growing focus on contingency planning and emergency preparedness that helps us to avoid large cases of attrition and non-performance.
Probably nine out of ten people that I speak with are optimistic that this new demand for booking meetings will continue to be strong through the remainder of the year. It’s clear that attrition situations are far, far fewer than in 2009. And those situations that still occur carry a much lower average settlement amount. Many cities are posting June occupancy numbers of over 80% and looking for strong summer business. However, the Fall months of October and November will tell the tale for us, as they are very heavy meeting, convention, tradeshow, and business travel months. Airports and hotels are busy. I even see more waiting at restaurants. These are all positive indicators as long as the customer service levels keep up with the demand in cities and venues around the globe.
If leisure travel and transient business travel remains steady, we will continue to see positive occupancy and average rate gains. The luxury and upper/upscale segments are posting impressive performance numbers in most markets. This clearly points that travelers want luxury at lower prices which they are still seeing in many markets, especially for short-term meetings that can fill holes.
Will people keep traveling if air fares, hotel rates, and F&B prices return to pre-June 2008 levels? In my opinion, the American public has a fascination and appetite for global travel that will grow, especially if the value of the dollar becomes positive in Europe and Asia. It appears that we are well past the era of meetings NOT meaning business which is a great thing for all of us.
Are you optimistic? Do you feel the energy of an industry on the rise? Can we continue to dodge nature’s bullets?
It’s sure much more fun to speak about Up, Growth, and Better than Last Year, don’t you think?
Gary Schirmacher, CMP is Experient’s Senior Vice President of Strategic Account Services. To learn more about him, click here.