An added emphasis on education and industry trends marked the Hyatt Insurance & Financial Roundtable, held September 15 to 18 at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa in San Antonio.

General sessions on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the state of the airline industry, and food and beverage trends were accompanied by smaller breakout sessions on topics such as meeting safety and security, speaker trends and topics, and demonstrating the value of destination marketing companies.

This emphasis on education and trends — and the topics discussed — “reflects the concerns of the planners who attend our roundtable,” says event co-organizer Marilyn Brumbaugh, director of national accounts for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts.

The roundtable took place just a day after Delta and Northwest Airlines declared bankruptcy. Alynne Hanford, national sales manager, groups and company meetings, American Airlines, told the gathering that the industry as a whole has suffered more than $30 billion in losses since 2001. “I don't know of any industry that can withstand those kinds of losses and survive,” Hanford told the group, adding that skyrocketing fuel costs are now the biggest part of carrier budgets.

In separate breakout sessions, several attendees talked about the impact stricter regulatory enforcement is having on meetings and events. For example, one planner reported she recently planned a meeting in which, for the first time, spouses were not invited, while another described the extra steps her company is taking in documenting who accepts gifts and which ones are accepted.

On the Hyatt front, Gary Dollens, vice president, product and design for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, told attendees that Hyatt is making strong efforts to “reposition and strengthen our brand” with guest room renovations.

Dollens said these continuing renovations will provide guests “with brighter and more contemporary rooms, but with a consistency of product.” Yet, Dollens added, Hyatt is not taking a cookie-cutter approach to its renovations, but instead is getting “back to our roots” with unique and innovative design.

The 36 planners in attendance also had a chance to experience some of what San Antonio and the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa has to offer. Event organizers used the resort's sensational outdoor venues for opening and final night receptions, and attendees had the chance to experience the resort's beautiful golf course and spa.

On the roundtable's second night, with the help of planners from PRA Destination Management, attendees were bused into the center of San Antonio and ushered onto river barges for a San Antonio river cruise. The final destination was the Southwest School of Art and Craft, where the group dined on the beautiful grounds of a former convent on the banks of the river.

IN THE PIPELINE

Hyatt Highlights

Hyatt Hotels & Resorts has 30 hotels under development internationally. Of those, 10 are being built in China. By 2007 the company will have more hotels in China than in any other country except for the United States.

On the F&B front, Hyatt is introducing a “personal preference” menu to provide a restaurant-style experience to the meeting banquet.

Amerisuites, which Hyatt purchased in January 2005, is being renamed as the all-suite, limited-service brand Hyatt Place. Hyatt is expected to invest $150 million in the 143-property chain.