Business isn't bad all over. Smaller venues have seen a recent boost in business as companies search for more subdued settings for their meetings.
“This year our inns will have their best years ever,” says Richard Johnson, communications manager with Columbia Hospitality Inc., Seattle. Two of the company's three small venues — Friday Harbor House and the Resort at Deer Harbor — saw nearly 98 percent occupancy through the past summer. The other, Inn at Langley, saw nearly 92 percent occupancy. Those numbers are pretty amazing considering that, overall, the Pacific Northwest has seen a 30 percent decline in tourism, according to the Seattle Times.
And the company's Aljoya Conference Center is “on fire,” according to Brett Mattesan, vice president, Columbia Hospitality. “It is, in my opinion, well out-performing the marketplace because it's smaller: just 30 guest rooms, 6,000 square feet of space.” Aljoya is enjoying 30 percent more in full revenue than at this time last year.
The same seems to hold true on the other side of the country as well. The Otesaga resort, in Cooperstown, N.Y., has seen a significant rise in meetings in 2002 and has had an outstanding year, well over projections, according to Bob Faller, meetings director and director of sales and marketing at the hotel.
The reasons for the success of small venues? It could be that many companies are seeking less ostentatious and more subdued, intimate venues.
“They want to show employees and stockholders that they are trying to cut costs,” says Johnson. “By using a smaller inn, a company doesn't show the flash of a downtown hotel or a conference center.”
Johnson says that there also seems to be a growing interesting inand motivational programs, and secluded venues tend to lend themselves well to those curricula.
Mattesan notes that the regional meeting trend is ongoing. Many travelers are opting for driving over flying.
But Columbia Hospitality and The Otesaga may be exceptions to the rule. Vicki Adams, manager of The Windham Hill Inn, West Townsend, Vt., has noticed a small decline in the number of meetings booked.
“A lot of small meetings are going in-house, to cut down on spending,” she says. Windham Hill hosts a number of corporate teambuilding excursions. “But we have seen an increase in interest, particularly in the last month. And that's a good sign.”
Even Mattesan notes that Columbia Hospitality overall hasn't seen the rebound in the market that people predicted. “They were saying first quarter, the recession's over. I think the industry had high hopes, and also some positive self-promotion. But the reality is that it's still a very challenging time.”