Hotel contracts, perception issues, and the future of meetings were the hot topics at the 11th annual Krisam Insurance Advisory Board. A group of more than 20 senior-level financial and insurance planners and industry suppliers met May 28-31 at Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas, for candid conversations about the state of the industry. The atmosphere was fueled by “a hunger to communicate and collaborate,” said Krisam Group President and KRIAB moderator Jim Schultenover. (Krisam acts as a national sales office for three-, four-, and five-star hotels and resorts.)

State of the Union

Participants shared concerns about how perception issues have affected meetings. The greatest frustration, said Schultenover, is that in many cases, meetings canceled due to perception worries were not rebooked — and the “hidden costs” of companies walking away from meetings continue to plague the industry. For instance, companies are paying cancellation fees while also recognizing qualifiers with another type of reward. “Many companies are waiting to see how things shake out not only with their sales numbers but also with perception,” said Doris Dallow, Krisam Group vice president and meeting organizer.

There are bright spots on the horizon, with KRIAB participants on both sides of the aisle “feeling like we are getting on firmer ground,” said Schultenover. None of the hotel representatives predicted a banner year for 2009 or 2010, but the outlook for 2011 and 2012 is much stronger, particularly for larger properties.

Planner participants reported meeting with senior management to help their programs move forward. There's a feeling of confidence about future programs and customer events for companies not receiving Troubled Asset Relief Program funds, while companies receiving TARP funds are planning only educational meetings.

“Soft Block” Contract

Before the meeting, participants suggested issues to discuss. Chief among them: contracts. A key problem is how to contract future meetings based on today's lower attendee numbers while still allowing for a jump to higher attendance. The solution: a two-part contract. The first part reflects a room block and function space based on current numbers. A second, a “first-option contract,” holds additional rooms and space based on past attendance. There are agreed-upon review dates and the planner has first right of refusal on the “soft” block if the hotel gets another offer for the space.

Incentive Trends

Incentive programs are coming back at companies not receiving Troubled Asset Relief Program funds, often with more meeting content and new giveback programs. Other trends:

  • Incentive programs are still a competitive requirement to grow sales and engender loyalty. Companies that use independent brokers will lead the charge in booking future programs.

  • Some companies have cut spa time but are keeping golf, which is considered a teambuilding activity.

  • Corporate social responsibility programs are also being used for their teambuilding benefits.

  • Though smaller than in the past, international programs are being sourced for 2010 and beyond.