Category Archives: News

New Survey Finds Non-Dues Revenue a Hidden Topic in Many Associations

The Association Research Board has released the findings of a nationwide survey of association executives.

The data reveals most associations lack a sense of urgency and direction in seeking new sources of non-dues revenue.

Digging into the data provides interesting insights:

  • A quarter of the executives never discuss the need for additional revenue with their boards.
  • New non-dues Revenue generation is only a concern of about one-third of the respondents.
  • Among associations that attempt to increase revenue, only half call their programs a success.

A copy of the Association Research Board report can be found here.

Jane Schuldt of World Marketing Group – Loss of an Industry Icon

The ConventionPlanit.com staff, along with the entire meeting and incentive travel community, is saddened by the passing of Jane Schuldt, Founder and President of World Marketing Group and icon of our industry.

The WMG portfolio of Destination Management Companies around the world was our first DMC supplier member and continues to provide contacts in far flung locations for our event planners.

Maureen Pickell, Director of Global Accounts for CP.com, had the privilege of calling Jane a dear friend as well as esteemed colleague.

In her words, “Being respected by Jane was a badge of honor in an industry held to high standards. She will be remembered for her elegance of spirit as well as her resolute work ethic and will be missed for the warmth and loyalty shown towards her friends and close associates.”

Welcome Newest Members

ConventionPlanit.com has been busy adding new venues to our portfolio.

Consider these newest members of ConventionPlanit.com for your next meeting:

Horton Grand Hotel – San Diego, CA
Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh, PA
Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress – Orlando, FL
Visit Huntington Beach – Huntington Beach, CA
Miraval Resort & Spa – Tucson, AZ
Myrtle Beach Area CVB – Myrtle Beach, SC

View more newest members.

Don’t forget, when you use ConventionPlanit.com, you can still send your RFP to your NSO reps!

Welcome Newest Members

ConventionPlanit.com has been busy adding new venues to our portfolio.

Consider these newest members of ConventionPlanit.com for your next meeting:

Fairmont Dallas – Dallas, TX
Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa – Bonita Springs, FL
Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa – Maui, HI
Hyatt Centric Key West Resort & Spa – Key West, FL
Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel – Pittsburgh, PA
Bahia Resort Hotel – San Diego, CA
Deauville Beach Resort – Miami Beach, FL
American College of Chest Physicians – Glenview, IL
Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino – Palm Beach, Aruba
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa – Kalaheo, HI
Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate – Orlando, FL

View more newest members.

Don’t forget, when you use ConventionPlanit.com, you can still send your RFP to your NSO reps!

Federal Travel Restrictions Loosened

President Obama has released a memorandum lifting many of the restrictions in place surrounding federal employee attendance at conferences and events.

Since 2012, the process and conditions required for federal employees to gain approval to attend conferences prevented many from attending and properly doing their jobs. The reduction of 25 percent equated to a savings of $30 million.

While regulations will still be in place, the focus will be on federally sponsored or hosted events. Government agencies will now be held to accountability standards, which include publishing information on their public websites about conference attendance with an overall cost greater than $100,000. They must also include the  date and location of the conference, the number of staffers attending, total expenditures, and an explanation of how the event advanced the mission of the agency.

Agencies will now be able to pre-approve attendance at reoccurring events, allowing for the cost savings bonus of early registration discounts and advance travel arrangements. If a conference will cost more than $500,000 for an agency to attend, an agency official must document in writing why the event is the most cost-effective way to achieve the organization’s purpose.

The memorandum says government officials must continue to root out wasteful spending, but it hints at a lesson learned by agencies while they were subjected to such tight controls on conferences. “These changes incorporate the lessons learned over the past several years and recognize the resulting actions that agencies have taken during that time,” the memorandum says, though it also acknowledges that it has impeded the ability of employees to do their jobs to some extent. “These changes also respond to challenges agencies faced as a result of OMB Memorandum M-12-12, including reduced opportunities to perform useful agency functions, present scientific findings and innovations, train, recruit, and retain employees, or share best practices,” the document says.

What’s In and Out for 2017 Meetings

By Al Rickard, CAE

It’s a new year, and the meetings industry is looking ahead to what will make their events compelling in 2017.

Carrie Abernathy, CMP, CEM, CSEP, Director of Education & Events at Practice Greenhealth, predicts more “attendee engagement through technology. There will be a bigger focus on attendee ROI by connecting them to their peers and coaches/mentors and speakers at events. There will be a shift toward using technology to connect people, such as the launch of ‘Brain Dates’ at PCMA’s Convening Leaders. Attendees need to demonstrate immediate ROI when attending conferences and so planners are working to meet those needs.”

“One thing that will always be ‘in’ in the meetings industry is networking and the opportunity to learn from people in a live setting,” says Suzanne Berry, MBA, CAE, Senior Strategic Advisor to the CEO at the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. “You can’t duplicate that type of learning online and capture the insights and nuances of new ideas that you get at an in-person meeting.”

Suzanne and her husband, Peter, spent many years running an association management company and have run hundreds of meetings and seen the results they produce.

Peter Berry offers this thought on what’s “out” for meetings in 2017: “Loud music. People come to meetings to connect and talk to each other, so give them an opportunity to do that. Have the reception and dinner in a relatively quiet space and save the loud music for later at night for people who want to dance.”

Kristin Clarke, CAE, Executive Director of the American Physical Therapy Association Section on Women’s Health, notes, “Sustainability continues to be important operationally not only because of cost but even more so from the standpoint of organizational values and alignment with member expectations. With more than 75 percent of communities engaged in recycling, attendees notice if they can’t find an easy recycling bin or if you serve coffee to thousands using Styrofoam cups.”

What else can you expect to be “In” and “Out” in the meetings and travel industry? Here’s a snapshot:

In Out
Jeans and Casual Dress Neckties
Facebook Live Expensive Videos
Theater in the Round Lecterns and Podiums
Retargeting Ads Mass Marketing
Connection Receptions Sit-Down Dinners
GMO-Free Produce Processed Food
TSA Pre-Check Shoeless Airport Security Check
Calendar Appointment Requests Formal Invitations
Alexa Siri
Phone Alarm Alarm Clock
Real News Fake News

What would you add to the list? Leave a comment and let us know!

Al Rickard, CAE, is President of Association Vision, a Washington, DC-area communications company;arickard@assocvision.com.

The IMEX A to Z of 2017: 5 trends to watch as the year unfolds

2016 was no slouch of a year for the meetings industry nor, indeed, for the world at large. Dramatic forces were at play and many of us shared a sense that, even if we wanted to grasp the pace or nature of change taking place, we barely had the time or the head space to do so. 2016 was pivotal – and it felt like it.

Looking ahead to 2017, IMEX has identified five trends which, starting at A and ending at Z, are anything but simple or linear in the impact they’ll have on the meetings and events industry. In fact, we already predict that by 2018 ‘clarity’ will be the watchword of the moment.

AI & VR

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) used to be the future. Then, over the last two years, the first VR headsets started to appear at IMEX (Frankfurt and America), with destinations and venues as the ‘early adopters’. By the end of 2016, both technologies had made the final transition from fringe to freely available. The future had arrived.

Grip, the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) event networking solution won the #IMEXpitch at IMEX America in Las Vegas. Elsewhere, at IBM’s World of Watson conference, AI was the ‘driver’ of a 3D-printed, driverless minibus that toured the show floor, giving passengers restaurant recommendations.

In the world of virtual reality, WorldViz, a behind-the-scenes VR company that’s been working on large-scale, enterprise solutions, launched its new platform for business communication. The project, codenamed “Skofield”, allows remote users to make cross-platform presentations in VR.

Both AI and VR offer exciting new frontiers for suppliers in the meetings and events industry. Expect AI, and especially VR (not forgetting Augmented Reality), to capture both the imagination and the headlines in 2017.

Tech-connecting

One of the challenges of being at a large business event is the lingering sense that there are potential (and great) new contacts all around. But do we all identify, locate and then meet those new contacts? The rise of social media but, more importantly, of networking technologies and apps is fast changing our ability to satisfy that need. This urge to find and connect with ‘the right kind’ of each other at live events is what IMEX calls ‘finding your tribe.’

This trend is about both targeting and personalisation. Witness Loopd, winners of the 2015 IMEXpitch and (once again) Grip, the 2016 IMEXpitch winners. Equally, Zenvoy, partnered with IMEX to provide a pre, during and post-show ‘match-making’ service for buyers/attendees to meet or work with each other; a natural add-on to the show’s core appointment system, which enables buyers to meet with exhibitors.

Witness too the rise of snapchat and private messaging. Many of the big conversations at shows, conferences and other events are now happening online – and in private. Where social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram bring the immediate show experience – and audience feedback – to life in a dynamic way (especially with the advent of Facebook Live), Snapchat and private messaging services allow sub-groups and ‘tribes’ to find each other, talk and make plans in private.

As many of these tech-connecting services race to become the favourite, go-to brand of the moment, expect to see some triumph and scale up to great acclaim, while others simply don’t – or can’t – keep pace.

Disruption

‘Are PCOs and hotels prepared to manage the increasing disruption and challenges in accommodation services for international meetings?’ was the title of a hot-topic discussion at ICCA’s recent Conference in Kuching, Malaysia.

‘Increasing disruption’ aptly sums up the prevalence of disruptive forces not only in the meetings and events industry but also all around us. The ICCA discussion focussed on the impact of booking portals and event scammers with fake websites but Airbnb has similar potential to disrupt the traditional meetings space market.

‘Disruption’ could easily lay claim to being THE word of 2016.  Dr Kaihan Krippendorff’s PCMA Business School session at IMEX in Frankfurt – ‘The Outthinker Playbook – Devising Disruptive Strategies’ drew a large and eager audience, as did Jay Samit’s presentation ‘Disrupt You!’ at IMEX America 2016.

‘Disruption’ also describes the impact of unexpected political results in 2016 – namely Brexit and the U.S. Presidential election. Even though the fallout has so far been short-term, most organisations (in all industries worldwide) are on alert for the long-term consequences. Harking back to a favoured phrase from five or six years ago, 2017 heralds a sense that ‘disruption’ is set to be the ‘new normal’.

Unsubscribing
Last year at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference, Professor Sir Cary Cooper said a compulsion to deal with messages caused UK employees to become less productive than many of their international counterparts.

“For people to be working at night, weekends and holiday on emails is not good for the health of our country,” he told the BBC. “We need to ban emails [sent and received] within the same building,” he said, advocating instead for face-to-face meetings and phone calls.

Independent research by Atos Origin highlighted that the average employee spends 40% of their working week dealing with internal emails which add no value to the business.

Add to that newsletters, social media notifications and e-shots and it’s clear to see why many people are eager to seize back their time.  In effect, this trend is a flight towards more authentic and meaningful productivity.

Expect unsubscribes and opt-outs to rise as individuals reclaim their inboxes, their sanity and their time.

In turn, the purposeful creation and appreciation of ‘no-thing’ time (using planning approaches such as White Space) will win more and more fans in 2017.

Zs

Workplace demographic shifts really gathered pace in 2016, with Generation Z now heading over the horizon.  By the end of this decade Zs will account for around 20 per cent of the work force.

Born in the late 1990s onwards, Zs were the first to grow up with the Internet and portable technology at their fingertips, virtually from birth! According to various research reports, compared with those born in the 15 or so years before them – Generation Y, the Millennials – they are distinctly different (hence their disparaging, alternative label, ‘Generation Snowflake’…because every little snowflake is unique).

From a communications and meetings perspective, Zs are tech-intuitive, tech-based multi-taskers and good at online collaboration but tend to have weaker face-to-face and social skills, are liable to be distracted easily and have a short attention span.

According to the 2015 Way to Work survey by Adecco Staffing USA, as employees Zs want financial stability (a result of living through recession and the burden of student debt), a dream job, entrepreneurial opportunities, a flexible work-life balance, regular face-to-face mentoring and plenty of feedback from the boss. In pursuit of this they’re likely to job-hop in their early years.

As an event or meetings audience Zs are set to place strong, new demands on planners, venues and brands. Whether they prove to be high value or just high maintenance, 2017 should reveal all.

Berlin Convention Office – We Know all About Arranging Meetings

berlin logoBerlin Convention Office – We know all about arranging meetings
The visitBerlin Berlin Convention Office (BCO) is the first go-to agency for event planners. The BCO offers comprehensive support for the organisation of conventions, meetings and incberlin photoentives in Berlin.Customers benefit from the experienced team, a vast network of contacts and the free-of-charge agency and reservation services for hotel allocations.

Learn more about Berlin.

Hospitality Industry Career Opportunities

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to work for your favorite search directory, now is your chance! conventionplanit job openings

ConventionPlanit.com has openings for the following positions:

Regional Director of Sales

    Sell online marketing solutions to hotels, resorts, CVBs, and other service providers. Position entails phone sales for website listings, advertising and e-marketing features. Additional training will be provided. A minimum of five years of sales experience as well as basic computer skills are required. To apply, or for additional information, please send cover letter and resume to

info@conventionplanit.com.

Marketing Manager

    Working from home as an independent contractor, the Marketing Manager arranges sales appointments with designated hospitality suppliers, i.e., hotel sales directors, VP of management companies, CVB marketing directors, for assigned ConventionPlanit.com sales directors to demo and close the sale. This individual may flexibly set their own hours and focus on the best time to reach their clients, given the various time zones. Clients are retrieved from our CMS database as well as specific lists in which special pricing was coordinated. Additional training will be provided. To apply, or for additional information, please send cover letter and resume to

info@conventionplanit.com

    .

Group Meetings: New Trends Affecting Convention Room Blocks

ConventionPlanit.com Principal & Co-Founder Katherine Markham authored the following article, which originally appeared on HotelExecutive.com.

The economy is showing signs of improvement and hotels are reporting record profits. Yet the trends that are affecting convention room blocks today as well as vexing meeting planners are rooted in the past trials of the Great Recession. ConventionPlanit.com looked to its own Advisory Council, supplier members and industry leaders for feedback on the factors that are eroding meeting and convention room blocks.

Supply & Demand

There’s no doubt we’re in a seller’s market and many say we may be headed for a ‘buyer’s market.’ Cyclical timing is critical for hotels capitalizing during gainful times while making up for previous losses from ‘buyer market’ years. Supply and demand in any given time plays a major role. In cities that refrained from hotel ‘new builds’ during the bubble years, group room availability is now in low supply. As a result, these cities are experiencing an upswing in demand and attaining higher rates with new developments on the horizon. Hotels in boomtowns often impose a 30 day convention cut-off date to sell their rooms to higher rated short term business travelers.

While in more over-developed destinations like New York City where rates are traditionally high, soft corporate demand and excessive hotel inventory have created a fierce and unprecedented competition for occupancy by lowering rates. Due to fiscal uncertainties in the recent past, booking business a few months out was the standard. Geoff Heuchling, Senior Director of e-Commerce for Marriott Hotels is reporting record high group bookings; and any anxiety a planner had over the economy has been replaced by concern over securing essential meeting space. Mr. Heuchling notes that meeting planners are now booking several years ahead. According to meeting planners, convention bureaus as well as hotels are requiring the commitment of a high ratio of hotel rooms to allocate adequate meeting space.

Sharing – Economy Influences

During the recession, shared-economy, booking sites soared offering competitive rates. Convention attendees continue to search online and compare hotel rates on 3rd party booking sites for the best deal over their convention dates. Unexpectedly, Airbnb emerged to permanently challenge the industry by appealing to a growing demographic of thrifty millennials. Planners attribute permanent erosion in their room block to shared economy booking sites, including the underestimated impact of Airbnb.

The International Association of Professional Organizers (IAPO) revealed in a 2015 study that the shared-economy is denigrating the number of hotel room nights booked by meeting planners. IACPO members planned 4,537 events in 2015, which is up by over 3,000 in the year prior. However, the number of room nights booked by their members including association, corporate and government, decreased by 2.43 million room nights.

Recent industry studies indicate that one out of three rooms are booked outside the contracted room block, and for city wide conventions, the average is about 45%. Ironically, destinations struggling with insufficient hotel rooms for city wide conventions are welcoming creative alternatives that also include cruise ships docked for overflow.

Windy Christner, Senior Director of Meetings & Expositions for the American Pharmacists Association contracts a ‘lowest rate’ confirmation over their Annual Meeting dates in order to mitigate problematic ‘wholesale’ rates through 3rd party booking sites.

This is a challenging issue for hotels that need to maintain high daily occupancies. When faced with booking rooms for a single day on which they desperately need business, they may offer competitive rates that are lower than the convention rate and cover a few days before and after the needed dates. The convention cut-off date protects the hotel by liberating them to sell last minute rooms either higher or lower than the convention rate, based upon supply and demand. To control their inventories, Hotel chains are now advertising a book direct policy to obtain the best possible rate and other incentives are slowly being included such as free Wi-Fi.

Rogue housing companies have been around for some time, but they escalated during the Great Recession to poach room night commissions and erode room block consumption. Room piracy has cost the industry millions in hotel revenue and the organization faces stiff attrition fees by the loss. Attendees also pay the price by losing deposits or imposed cancellation fees as well as access to room drops, announcements, free shuttle, food and networking events. Attempting to acquire meeting space for future conventions is also challenging when there is a record of weak room pick up. Piracy is getting easier due to mock Websites and Twitter. And because these unofficial housing companies appear authentic, a meeting’s management team may be unaware that rooms are being poached. When organizations post their member lists on their Websites, it becomes public domain and open season for fraudulent companies to contact attendees with sold out scare tactics.

Research conducted by the Convention Industry Council found that 73.1% of 655 meeting professionals who responded to their 2014 survey had conventions targeted by piracy. And yet a majority of them had not developed preventive measures. Meeting planners must make their attendees aware of this problem, since it’s not going away anytime soon.
Meeting planners who use commissionable RFP sourcing sites may not be aware of the hidden fees or mark-ups that impact their rates as it may not appear in their contract. Although hotels claim that these fees are the cost of doing business, they may increase the rate to compensate for commissions they must pay out. The rate therefore may not be the lowest intended or available for attendees.

Attrition, Attrition, Attrition

Meeting planners are frustrated by the lack of control they have over their room blocks, citing that delegates are attending the convention, even though they may not book within the room block. Leslie Zeck, CMP, CMM, Director of Meetings for the International Dental Research Association, is obtaining non-negotiable quotes that include a 5-6% increase per year on convention room rates. What happens if a few years from now the pendulum swings back to a buyer’s market? The organization will be saddled with overpriced rooms and thousands of dollars in penalties.

Planners are tentative about signing guarantees that render their organization liable for exorbitant penalties, especially when attendees today are going around the block using 3rd party booking sites. Ms. Zeck has recently contracted with a housing company that has the clout of working with several major organizations and can negotiate more effectively on behalf of IADR.

For organizations that include a rebate to pay for items like shuttle transportation, they depend upon room fulfillment to pay for these types of services. As meeting space is often tied to room night consumption, an unexpected fee for meeting space may also be incurred when anticipated fulfillment is reduced.

Dave Williams, CMP, President, Administrative Management Services, Inc. didn’t anticipate a decline in oil prices that would impact revenues by his corporate members and now he is forced to factor in attrition fees. He references his 3 considerations for every meeting includes sponsorships, registration fees and expenses which must balance out. If sponsorships are coming in low or expenses like attrition fees are high, member registration fees will go up. Somehow expenses to the organization must be covered, even when members create the problem by staying outside the room block. This is a complex problem and although he consistently communicates with his members to book early and within the block, the reality is that his attendees are price savvy. Mr. Williams suggests having good relationships with suppliers. “This is a relationship industry and having durable relationships with suppliers serves to strengthen loyalties so that attrition costs may instead be converted into a future booking commitment.”

The 2015 IACPO study revealed the average number of participants per event also fell by 9% in 2015, which was the lowest since 2010. In the wake of the Great Recession, we continue to see competition for convention attendance. Meeting planners are reducing registration fees by cutting back on meals and shuttle transportation. Attendees have choices and are favoring outlying hotels that are accessible to restaurants and activities. As a result, destinations that are walkable to eateries are preferred over convention center access, although both components help. When eateries are far from the convention center, a drop in room night fulfillment is detected.

Terrence Donnelly, Vice President for Experient references the sluggishness by attendees in booking their rooms. Exhibiting companies book rooms near the center early, because they’re sure they’re going. Attendees may not be as certain or crunched for time and often scrambling the last minute to find rooms. In higher demand cities, last minute rooms are typically not the lowest rate and this too affects attendance. Mr. Donnelly suggests that planners reserve a separate block for attendees. Corporations that block a number of rooms through their travel agencies book early, but often at lower rates and commissionable.

Future Outlook

Although the meetings industry is showing progress and the economic impact of conventions remains strong, savvy delegates are cutting costs and seeking affordable options – a new normal in the wake of the Great Recession. All indications point to a rise of bookings outside the room block. Bank of America Merrill Lynch has recently downgraded hotel stocks in anticipation of growth by sharing-economy suppliers.

Some say that room blocks may be a thing of the past and that delegates may simply go to hotel website to obtain their 10% discount based on prevailing rates. In any case, technology may present innovative solutions in the future for hotels and meeting planners alike. To improve revenue management practices, it is likely that Hotels will gain better control over rate comparisons in the marketplace by calibrating rates based upon supply & demand, similar to the airline industry.

Obtaining hotel rooms and meeting space that will be needed for future conventions can be challenging when room block pick up is under reported. Tracking delegates via technology may be helpful in quantifying the economic impact for a destination.

Tips to Mitigate Attrition Factors:

  1. Avoid RFP sourcing channels that are not transparent about commissions or hidden fees. Guard against piracy.
  2. Review attendee history to understand their needs. Accommodate attendees with a separate room block and preferences they may have for lower priced hotel rooms or those nearest to eateries and the convention center. Promise low and deliver high by blocking less rooms and picking up more. Ask for 14 or 21 day cut-off versus 30 days where possible. Negotiate with hotels to honor the lowest rate available during the convention dates.
  3. Incentivize early bird reservations with 1 night room & tax deposits. Package registration discounts for staying within the room block. Communicate with members regularly to book their rooms, the importance of staying within the room block and avoiding piracy by using special housing codes. Insist that exhibitors reserve sleeping rooms within your contracted room block.
  4. Monitor weekly pick-up reports and reduce or move room blocks before cut off dates where attrition fees kick in. Audit your rooms. All cumulative rooms may be counted in room block fulfillment including those pre and post the official convention dates. Complimentary rooms offered to the organization based upon pick-up must be credited towards any attrition fees. Re-sold rooms by hotels should not be included for attrition fees. Good historical room pick-up will enable you to negotiate better room blocks in the future.
  5. Budget for possible attrition. Offer to book another meeting that may be more valuable to a hotel to offset penalties.

Meeting planners are essentially ‘feeders’ of new business for hotels and ancillary, economic impact. Given the complexities of the situation, the solutions are also multi-dimensional. Whatever the circumstances, suppliers and meeting planners have a common goal to work together to stimulate business and avoid penalties.