Capturing business in challenging times was the theme of a half-day educational forum held in June, put on by the Primedia Business Meetings Group editors and other trade press for the New England Chapter of the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association International. About 80 hoteliers attended the program at the Omni Parker House in Boston to hear meeting planners in various industries talk about current issues and trends within their market segments.

Richard Granger, assistant vice president, conference and travel services, Allmerica Financial in Worcester, Mass., led the discussions about insurance/financial services meetings. Among his observations and predictions for 2003:

  • The financial services industry continues to be driven by consolidation, leading to bigger meetings.

  • Incentive meetings remain the most effective way to motivate and reward agents, and companies are moving forward with 2003 and 2004 programs. “In good times and bad, the financial services industry has incentive meetings,” said Granger. Popular destinations include the Caribbean, Canada, and Mexico.

  • There's a potential shift to family-friendly resorts that are located within a three-hour drive or plane ride from attendees to help maintain attendance of spouses.

  • Tight budgets are resulting in shorter but more frequent training meetings in airport hotels or regional locations. At Allmerica, the three-night meeting that took place three times a year has been pared down to a one-night meeting that takes place seven times a year.

  • Lead times of only four-to-six weeks out for non-incentive meetings have become a way of life. That's not going to change because financial services companies make decisions quarter to quarter.

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