Hotel group demand is returning slowly. What types of meetings are welcoming that demand? Recent research among meeting planners shows similarities with leisure travel trends seen this past year.
The group liftoff is evidenced by recent STR data for the U.S.
September 2021 had produced the highest group demand level of the pandemic-era, but preliminary data for the four full weeks of October indicated further improvement with a lift from “conference season.”
STR’s recently released DestinationMAP provides a view of the type of meetings that planners believe they will be planning as the industry moves to the next stage of recovery. In a June 2021 survey conducted by STR, more than 900 meeting planners in North America and the United Kingdom were presented with a series of different meeting types. Participants were asked if, in the next couple of years, they would be planning these types of meetings more, the same, or less, compared with pre-pandemic times (2019 and earlier). Responses showed similarity between leisure trends of the past year and the types of meetings planners believe they will be planning.
Smaller meetings and meetings within driving distance were the meeting types with the highest net propensity to be planned. Likewise, leisure travel to smaller markets and travel by car were two characteristics prevalent among leisure travelers since the earliest phase of recovery. Regional meetings also ranked high with meeting planners, which is in line with meetings within driving distance.
There were also some planners inclined to plan meetings in smaller hotels. This desire by meeting planners matched research showing leisure traveler desires for small hotels. Meeting planner enthusiasm for outdoor venues again parallels what was seen among leisure travelers over the past year-plus with an increase in travel to national parks and countryside/outdoor getaways.
Meetings in smaller markets rated high with planners, which was another trend seen among leisure travelers with an increased desire for a small-town getaway. Meeting planners were relatively less positive about meetings in non-hotel venues, possibly due to the unknown element for these types of venues and the fact that the pandemic has caused any encounter in a new place to be more closely scrutinized. Likewise, meeting planners were less positive about national meetings most likely because of the size and distance required.
At the bottom of the list were international meetings, which is the counter point to the increased desire for smaller and regional meetings. Leisure parallels are in evidence with leisure travelers more likely to choose domestic travel over international travel.
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