Thanks to our network of worldwide destination management companies and hotels, Krisam Group and Global Events Partners are harbingers for the state of the meetings industry. Last year was bad, we have to admit, but lately we see signs of promise in the meetings market, including in the international group travel segment. Here, our top four trends for international meetings:
1. Meeting planners still find value. For international meetings, planners want four- and five-star hotels and direct flights from the U.S. Organizations are also looking for locations where suppliers remain willing to give even better value than normal. Topping our list: Spain, France (mostly Paris, but we see some improvement in the South), Italy, Australia/New Zealand, Peru, and Argentina. (The “PBS NewsHour” recently broadcast a feature on the surprising vitality of Peru’s economy.)
Dubai continues as an intriguing destination, now with direct flights from the East Coast of the United States. And Singapore is up and coming, thanks to the opening of Marina Bay Sands, the iconic new $5.5 billion integrated casino resort, which will have 2,500 rooms and a museum, among other offerings.
Meanwhile the Bahamas remains a popular offshore destination by virtue of its nearness to the United States, along with its service, infrastructure, and large variety of group properties.
2. Companies still need to motivate their people. What types of programs are we seeing in this modest resurgence in international business? Outbound incentives never disappeared, but were smaller and fewer. Now, those who canceled incentives in the past are responding to the need to motivate and reward their sales leaders and to bring their sales forces together.
Many studies have confirmed that incentive travel has a greater appeal than cash—just imagine how motivating a luxury safari could be.
3. Planners need creative partners. Affording an international program can require creativity. We’ve got a few ideas. First, consider negotiating currency guarantees. In ever-walkable Europe, plan a dine-around and avoid transportation costs. Reduce the number of attendees or cut a day from the program. Or cut back on in-room gifts.
Creative thinking brings savings. Especially when you are booking international programs, local DMCs can use their long-term relationships with hotels and other vendors to add value to your program. And for planners whose staffs have been cut because of the economic downturn, global sourcing companies can help with planning and sourcing.
4. The appeal of international travel will never disappear. Across many industries, in particular pharmaceutical and financial, we have seen an increase in international board meetings, incentives, and customer advisory meetings.
We are excited that group business is up, inquiries are up, and programs are increasing in size. We are not back to where we were two years ago, but we are in a transition period. Business is steadily improving, and 2011 promises to be even better. Reports from our partner DMCs and member hotels give me reason to be optimistic—with that old qualifier, “cautiously”—that we have turned a corner and global group business is coming into its own again.
Jim Schultenover has spent more than three decades in the hospitality industry and currently serves as president of Krisam Group and Global Events Partners. Celebrating 35 years, Krisam Group represents more than 240 independent and unique hotels. Launched in 1999, Global Events Partners includes more than 65 leading destination management companies serving more than 90 locations worldwide. For more visit the Krisam and GEP Web sites.