Tag Archives: economy

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.

The Meeting Planner Inside Scoop: 2013 Takeaways and 2014 Predictions

meeting planner inside scoopWe recently sat down with seasoned meeting planner Darlene Lyons, President of EzEvents and CP.com Advisory Board member.

We got the meeting planner inside scoop on what lessons she learned from the 2013 meeting season, and what we can  look forward to for 2014.

2013 Takeaways – A Rebounding Economy Offers Pros and Cons

  • Larger Budgets: Lyons found many of her clients in 2013 had larger than expected budgets to put towards their meetings. This is certainly a signal of a strengthening economy!
  • Rise in Demand Limits Meeting Space & Guest Room Availability: Lyons said this happened quickly, and was an unpleasant surprise for her clients, who expected high availability and lower rates. 
  • Increased Lead Times: a direct result of the increase in demand has been longer lead times. Sales staff are inundated with more RFPs to respond to, and planners are experiencing longer wait times. Lyons says that ConventionPlanit.com makes it easy to get an organized search for properties done, as well help to get a response. “Venues respond quicker to ConventionPlanit.com,” she says.
  • More Research: another side effect of the demand, planners are finding it more difficult to secure their first choice destinations. Lyons recommends researching a meeting a minimum of two years out. “We’re having difficulty finding space in high demand destinations such as Las Vegas, but even the top twenty-five spots, like Dallas, are rebounding as well,” says Lyons.
  • WiFi Becomes a Requirement: No longer an option, WiFi is now demanded as a necessity. In face, Lyons said that Wifi was probably her biggest frustration and challenge for 2013. So much that she worked with an audiovisual specialist “to standardize the exact amount of megabits/sec needed per person based on how many devices they were likely to have and for what purposes they would use them,” she says. This way, she could bid out the right amount needed for that meeting so that no one was stuck with a frozen device. You can find out more about how to determine WiFi needs at her website, www.ezevents.net
  • Emerging Technologies: Digital signage, audience polling systems and smart phone apps all grew in popularity last year. Other changes she saw in 2013 included meetings with fewer speakers who talked at their audience and more round table discussions, and the need to reuse or maximize space.

2014 – Positive Expansions

What does 2014 hold for the meeting profession? Lyons is very positive for this year. She expects business to double, if not triple. “Companies are more optimistic, and many are projecting moderate growth. This is allowing them to free up larger budgets for meetings,” says Lyons.

“People still want peer to peer training. They want to network and learn.” She sees a trend for more collaborative type meetings with more audience participation. “Networking breakouts, and Ted-like short talks with a small number of people for a shorter period of time are becoming very popular.”

A final word of advice from Lyons for those who may be starting their careers in the meetings industry, especially those who will be working as independent planners like herself: “Have a solid business plan, have a good contract, find a niche market to work in, and have a good, targeted marketing plan,” she says.

Darlene Lyons is the founder and President of EzEvents, Inc. and has over 25 years of experience in the meeting industry. She has been responsible for the planning and execution of over 5,000 events on the North American continent. She has worked with many of the worlds’ leading speakers and entertainers, and thrives on the excitement of the event industry.

What did you take away from 2013? What do you think 2014 has in store? Comment below to join the discussion!

Lesson Learned: Don’t Retreat, Forge Ahead!

Please enjoy the following guest post from our friend and member Dave Gabri, President and CEO of Associated Luxury Hotels International!

ALHI PresidentUnderstandably it can be easy to get discouraged lately, if you watch the evening news or the Sunday morning news talk shows.

We were optimistic that the tiresome onslaught of negative economic news was behind us. After all, we have definitely seen positive signs in our meetings demand that business is back in the “business of business,” which includes an impressive growth in demand for face-to-face meetings.

But the recent stories about the latest challenges to the economy and markets could make you feel like everyone should hunker down and not spend a nickel.

Before reacting too quickly to change course, and cut meeting and incentive program expenditures which are needed for the developmental success of your organization or business, you should take a step back and analyze what we learned from the recent economic downturn of ’08 and ’09, even if we haven’t yet seen the “full” recovery. For one, we now realize the quantifiable value of in-person meetings, as it has been documented by intense research.

While business leaders have always intuitively understood and appreciated the value and benefits of face-to-face meetings and incentive/recognition travel programs for years, we now have the research to prove it. Studies like the “Return on Investment of U.S. Business Travel” by Oxford Economics show the indisputable value of meetings.

Quantifiable Value of Meetings

As you may recall, the authoritative study, conducted by a respected economic analysis firm, found that face-to-face meetings allow customers to convert 40 percent of prospective customers, versus just 16 percent without such a meeting. In addition, the average company generates 5 to 20 percent of new business through conference and trade show attendance.

The study also identified that each dollar invested in business travel (including meetings) drives approximately $12.50 in sales and $3.80 in profits. Furthermore, the average business would forfeit 15 percent of its profits in the first year of eliminating business travel, and it would take three years for profits to recover.

Additionally, the study found that 85 percent of the corporate executives surveyed perceive Web meetings and teleconferences to be less effective than in-person meetings with prospective customers, and virtually 63 percent believe virtual meetings are less effective than in-person meetings with current customers.

When it comes to incentivizing the achievers, companies now know they would need to increase an employee’s base compensation by 8.5 percent to achieve the same effect of incentive travel, but then would not capture the allegiance generated through incentive travel programs.

More Proof

A survey published by Harvard Business Review entitled “Managing Across Distance In Today’s Economic Climate: The Value of Face-To-Face Communication” provides additional verification. It found that 79 percent of the respondents said “face-to-face meetings are the most effective way to meet new clients to sell business,” while 89 percent said “in-person meetings are essential for sealing the deal.”

Also, a recent study by the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research found face-to-face meetings enhance attention, trust, empathy, social networks, and mirroring (such as responding to body language). The research also found that in-person meetings are better at inspiring a positive emotional climate, and for relationship-building.

So look at the big picture, rather than just these sensational headlines, to see what is in your organization’s or company’s best interest. Certainly a leadership lesson learned from ’08 and ’09 is that in order to keep the boat steadily moving forward, meetings make a difference to advance our objectives. So rather than retreat, forge ahead!

New Per Diem Rates Added

These new rates, announced by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), are for non-standard areas (NSAs) of the continental United States, and are in effect October 1, 2011, through September 30, 2012.

The complete FY2012 rates can be viewed at the GSA per diem website.


• The standard continental United States (CONUS) per diem rate for lodging applies to destinations that are not listed as specific destinations remains at $77 per night.

• GSA noted that its data shows that the ADR for hotel rooms has not yet returned to its pre-2008 levels and that while some areas have increased, others have remained flat or fallen below FY2011 levels.

• Of the NSA rates that did change from FY2011, most rates did not increase or decrease more than $5.

Information courtesy of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

Trend Watch – Room Rates

Room rates are creeping back up – or are they?

Smith Travel Research data from January shows that urban hotels at 66% occupancy while suburban hotels are at 58%.

As a result, urban hotels are offering fewer discounts for rooms – but suburban property rates are still lower than 2009 levels…which is shifting the demand.

Are you booking more meetings in the suburbs to secure lower rates? Have you experienced higher rates in urban areas?

The Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy

Meetings Mean Business, along with the Convention Industry Council and PwC US, has just released a study:

The Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy

The study reveals that the meetings industry directly supports:

  • 1.7 million jobs
  • $263 billion in spending
  • a $106 billion contribution to GDP
  • $60 billion in labor revenue
  • $14.3 billion in federal tax revenue
  • $11.3 billion in state and local tax revenue

This is the first study ever to truly measure the economic impact of meetings to help the industry tell the story about the value of meetings to policymakers, the business community, and the public.

Katherine Markham, CHME, our Co-Founder and Principal, attended the press conference today on the study.

She says:

“The best thing about the study is that it shows how critical meetings are at a time when our recovery depends on steadily increasing business activity.

“Fortunately, we are seeing a steady recovery in the meetings industry. The fact that this study measured data for 2009 – one of the toughest years for the meetings industry – shows that meetings are an even greater force in the economy than most people realize. The data for 2010 and beyond are no doubt even stronger.

“As meeting professionals move into the future, they are also depending even more on technology to help them plan meetings, and that’s where ConventionPlanit.com helps them with our online search directory. By connecting meeting planners to hotels and meeting venues as rapidly as possible, we hope we are doing our part to help speed the recovery and book more meetings for the future.”

To learn more, read the full study.  What do you think the survey means for our industry?

New Year, New Savings

With the New Year underway and the holidays behind us, we return to our normal routines (and perhaps also to the gym) and start planning meetings!

Many ConventionPlanit.com member facilities and destinations offer special meeting discounts for meeting planners.

Here are a few of the best early 2011 deals:

Bay Point Marriott Resort & Spa – Panama City Beach, FL

“Perk” up your meeting at the only Marriott Resort in NW Florida.

Sign up for 100 room nights or more by January 31, 2011 for meetings held on or before December 31, 2011 and choose from the following:

100– 199 total room nights: Choose ONE perk
200– 299 total room nights: Choose TWO perks
300+ total room nights: Choose THREE perks

Perks Include:
•1 hour welcome reception (chef’s choice) 15% savings on banquet pricing
•A one year Marriott Platinum membership for meeting planner or designee
•3 complimentary room upgrades to Bay view rooms or one bedroom Golf Villas
•1 complimentary foursome on the Meadows or Nicklaus Design Course
•1/35 comp policy
•10% savings on individual spa services
•25% allowable attrition
•Complimentary continental breakfast on opening day of scheduled event
•Complimentary use of the fitness center at Serenity Spa

Hilton Minneapolis St. Paul Airport Mall of America – Bloomington, MN

Events booked to take place between now and March 31, 2011 receive special rewards:

10-50 room nights: pick one
51-100 room nights: pick two
100-200 room nights: pick three

Rewards Include:
•Complimentary Wireless internet in guest rooms and meeting space
•Complimentary 1 hour Cocktail Reception
•25% off Audio Visual
•500 Hilton Honors Points per guestroom utilized
•Complimentary Company Logo Waterfall Display
•Complimentary Afternoon Refreshment Specialty Break
•Fast Track to Gold or Diamond Hilton HHonors Status

Sheraton Bucks County Hotel – Langhorne, PA

Meetings that book and are consumed in January – February 2011 will be eligible for the following:

Book $50k: 42″ Flat Screen TV
Book $25K: Apple iPad
Book $15K: Welcome Reception
Book $5K: $250 Amex Gift Card

Some minimum requirements and apply for the above offers. To learn more about these special offerings and other great deals visit Divine Deals on ConventionPlanit.com!

PCMA Annual Meeting Education Session Matching Game

After being treated to a rousing Four Seasons “Jersey Boys” medley at 8:30 am  (a bit early to deal with “Big Girls Don’t Cry” in a piercing falsetto – but fun anyway!) the day began with the strategic plan for PCMA 2011 and awards.

Some insider information to share with ConventionPlanit.com followers: the most recent Economic Impact Study of our industry will be released by mid-February and word is that the results are very positive.

According to Deborah Sexton, President and CEO of PCMA, we’ve moved from “cautiously optimistic” to “optimistic” with more meetings being booked in a “reset” environment.  No more business as usual…but business will continue to improve.

The first full day was packed with sessions that were varied and insightful…beginning with the general session and moving through the myriad of educational break-outs.

Let’s have some fun and play a matching game!

The left column contains quotes from several sessions…match them up to the session titles in the second column. (Answers will appear in my next blog post.)

Session Quotes Session Titles
The event industry is the 2nd highest generator of waste today. Opening General Session: Tightrope to the Top; Learning the Language of Success
Women now outnumber men in the workplace for the first time in history. Using Technology for Green Events
Over 40 countries are in attendance at the PCMA “Convening Leaders” Conference. Global Meetings: The Benefits of Working with a PCO
Six factors that a local partner can help contribute to a successful global conference: political, reach, scientific, legacy, emotional, and financial. Opening Session: Configuration of PCMA Meeting Attendees


PCMA will move forward as an industry vanguard by mingling face-to face and virtual to create the hybrid experience necessary to stay ahead of the curve.

By soliciting the input of New Professionals, expanding the International Membership and encouraging student involvement, the organization is concentrating on their member centric strategic plan.

Add on the recent partnership with the Virtual Edge Institute and we see that PCMA is not content to sit on its laurels…

the organization is ready to help take its membership into the next era of meeting management.

Getting ready for tomorrow and more “serious business” of meetings.  And in Las Vegas…who knew??

2011 Per Diem Rates Announced

The new fiscal year per diem rates were announced yesterday by the General Services Administration (GSA):

Rates Start: October 1, 2010
Rates End: September 30, 2011

The standard Continental United States (CONUS) per diem rate increased to $77 per night.

GSA reported the average daily rate (ADR) for hotel rooms is down 5.73% from fiscal year 2010.

There are several non-standard area lodging rate changes that have been reduced, making them more affordable to visit:

New York City (Manhattan) fall high season: reduced to $269 from FY2010 $340
Colorado Springs: reduced to $84 from FY2010 $88
Las Vegas: three seasons reduced to one, rates down from FY2010 high of $118 to $93
Miami, Fla., for the Miami-Dade area mid-season: down to $151 from FY2010 $152
Chicago, Ill., early summer area high season: reduced to $166 from FY2010 $211
Charleston, SC: down to $132 from FY2010 $142
Los Angeles, Calif.: reduced to $123 from FY10 $135
Kansas City, Mo: down to $99 from FY2010 $107
Cincinnati, Ohio: unchanged from FY2010 at $115
Seattle, Wash: reduced to $139 from FY2010 $159

How these rate changes affect your planning this fall?

Monday at ASAE Annual 2010

Second day of the ASAE Expo.

Haven’t seen any celebrities..unless you count the famous meeting planners who have stopped by the ConventionPlanit.com booth to view the website.

General sessions have been very creative with yesterday’s offering attendees a special screening of their very own sitcom…”Guilt By Association.”  Humor abounded in a storyline that followed the trials and tribulations of association execs. studying for a CAE exam. As you can imagine, this is a topic that can be mined for lots of laughs:)

There are always quotes galore at a state of the industry breakout session…my favorite so far is this bit of enlightment:

“We have data indicating that things could turn around – provided they don’t get worse.”

See you tomorrow…