Candid conversations about industry trends characterized the largest-ever Ritz-Carlton Insurance Advisory Council, held at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, in August. Fresh from a five-year, $65 million renovation, the property exemplified the evolving face of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. in 2012, with a regional design identity, locally and sustainably sourced cuisine with many healthy options, and individualized service dedicated to giving each guest a personalized wow experience.

Business sessions—with more than 30 seasoned meeting professionals plus Ritz-Carlton corporate hosts and property sales execs in attendance— explored trends in the luxury hotel category as well as in the financial and insurance meetings sector.
 
Takeaways from the buyer side:


More customer events and community-oriented events. Financial companies will continue to increase their customer events due to the sustained volatility of the stock market. As insurance companies become more transparent about their business practices, they will get closer to their customers by holding community-oriented events.
 
Robust training and sales meetings, particularly as companies continue to launch more new products for consumers.
 
Tighter meetings budgets in insurance companies, due to continued low interest rates—even in mutual companies.
 
Luxury is back. Planners continue to look for value, but perception has become less of an issue.
 
There’s an app for that. Companies are starting to launch meeting apps for incentive programs.

 
Takeaways from the supplier side:


Farm to table. Sustainable and locally sourced food continues to be a top trend, with more and more hotels growing their own kitchen gardens and cultivating other on-site healthy food sources—such as four beehives at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island.
 
Bar Chefs. Bartenders are boring, and even mixologists are passé. The new term is bar chef. They provide luxury drink experiences, all about layering, fresh flavors—and designer ice cubes (a perfectly round piece of ice, for example, or a big slab of ice that melts more slowly than the normal cube).
 
Three new luxury brands. The new Ritz-Carlton Reserve brand is intimate and ultra exclusive; the chic Bulgari brand by Marriott is equally intimate and will favor city locations; the high-design Edition hotels (a Marriott partnership with Ian Schrager) reflect contemporary flair.