When Kitty Ratcliffe became president of Meeting Professionals International (MPI), she promised the 14,000-plus members of the organization that she would keep them "ahead of the curve." Now serving her term, the 13-year hospitality industry veteran recognizes that being open to new member ideas is key to tracking that curve.
Ratcliffe, vice president, sales and marketing for the Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association, says that as members reveal their needs, MPI will provide training to meet them, most recently in such areas as new technology, glo-balization of meetings, and senior-level adult education. Labs at national conferences will be designed to give members hands-on experience.
Secondary trends that have surfaced recently, says Ratcliffe, include more family programs, more involvement of travel agents as planners, substantial growth in the number of independent planners (now as much for entrepreneurial reasons as because of downsizing), shorter meetings, and increasing enforcement ofclauses.
A major trend that affects meetings and Ratcliffe's home city of Baltimore is the increasing shortage of hotel meeting space and the accompanying switch to a seller's, not a buyer's market. But Ratcliffe says that hotel chains are on the buying and building curve again, seeking sites in most major and many secondary cities, and the growth, she predicts, will be in hotels in the range of 800 to 1,200 rooms, not smaller properties in the suburbs. In Baltimore, she says, three major hotel companies are seeking sites and might soon have their financing in place. "But it's not just Baltimore; it's everyplace." She cites Anaheim (CA), Indianapolis, and St. Louis as cities that need large hotels to support their convention centers. "Even Chicago is building new hotels," and New York will join the parade as well, she predicts.
What may be MPI's most useful tool, Ratcliffe says, is its(Return On Investment) program. A step-by-step video and accompanying workbook, sponsored by Marriott Hotels and Continental Airlines through the MPI Foundation, give meeting planners tools that "speak the boss's language" and enable them to show their organizations how much more they get out of a meeting-in dollars and learning-that is professionally managed. Two new modules are under development. Travel and entertainment, MPI points out, is the third-largest controllable expense, and meetings, unless well-managed, are the largest invisible source of loss to most organizations.
MPI's online network, MPINet, on CompuServe, has been joined by a World Wide Web site at http://www.mpiweb.org. It will provide up-to-date information on the association including industry news, educational opportunities, and bookstore items for sale. The CompuServe site will remain a networking vehicle.
What will the Internet mean for insurance companies? The Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) Society, based in Malvern, PA, wants to answer that question for you in a live satellite broadcast scheduled for February 4, 1997. Insurance through the Internet: Consumer, Company, and Regulatory Issues will look at how the recent explosion in electronic communications technology is affecting how companies market and sell insurance, the evolving role of the agent, and new regulatory issues. For registration information and downlink locations, call (800) 932-CPCU.
Hilton Hotels Corporation recently announced that it will acquire ownership interests in four hotels from Prudential Insurance Company of America for $267 million. The transaction will give Hilton, which currently owns 50 percent of the properties, near-total ownership. The properties are the New York Hilton & Towers; the Washington (DC) Hilton & Towers; the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC; and the Rye Town Hilton near New York City. Hilton, which had been managing all four properties, will continue to do so. This deal comes on the heels of an August transaction, in which Hilton purchased majority ownership interests in the Chicago Hilton & Towers and the San Francisco Hilton & Towers, while Prudential bought Hilton's interest in the Miami Airport Hilton.
The Life Insurance Marketing Research Association (LIMRA) International has a new book for sale: The Habits of Sales Success: Keys to Superior Time and Work Management. The useful handbook-which contains 75 ideas to spur productivity to an all-time high, plus tips from outstanding producers and productivity experts-is $10, with quantity discounts available. Call LIMRA at (800) 23-LIMRA.
The Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) has released the top five non-U.S. insurance companies (in terms of number of MDRT members) for 1996. They are Sony Life Insurance Company, Tokyo (636 members); American International Assurance Company, Hong Kong (508); Prudential Life Insurance Company, Tokyo (355); Great Eastern Life Assurance Company, Singapore (193); and Manufacturers Life Insurance Company, Toronto (183).
New Insurance Sites on the Web: Columbus Life Insurance Company in Cincinnati is reaching agents with a site that offers free continuing education credits. Agents, whether Columbus Life affiliated or not, can dial in to http://www.ColumbusLife.com for information.The Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS) recently announced its site at http://www.insweb.com/plus. The site provides PLUS members and nonmembers with information on professional liability including up-to-date information on national and regional events. Also on the World Wide Web is the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT). Producers can visit http://www.agents-online.com to find current information about MDRT membership requirements, membership statistics, MDRT's annual report, and more. Eventually, the site will include membership and meeting registration, plus product order forms.