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Benchmark's Top Ten Meeting Industry
Trends for 2004

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THE WOODLANDS, TEXAS, January 8, 2004 … Benchmark Hospitality, which manages 27 award-winning resorts, conference centers and hotels in the United States, Canada and Japan, announces its annual “Top Ten Meeting Industry Trends” for the new year, as observed by its properties.

Trend #1  Tether-free Technology

Wireless everything and everywhere, from meeting rooms to guestrooms to answering email at the pool. 

The demand for wireless technology is growing despite the additional cost to the customer.  Convenience vs. cost is the priority with business travelers and meeting participants.

TREND #2  The Mighty Internet

Planners now routinely use the Internet to research properties, learn about destinations, email RFPs, book meetings, register for conferences, and even vote on destinations or schedule tee times. 

The Internet has become indispensable to the meetings industry.

Trend #3  Short-term Booking Continues To Redefine Itself 

Meetings of 10 up to 100 guests are still booking from 30 to 90 days out.  Change is in the air though.  For 2004, select meetings - especially repeat programs and resort meetings - are back to the pre-recession pattern of booking 6 to 12 months out.

Meetings length has decreased slightly for 2004 - averaging about 2 to 3 days, unless the meeting is a national training program, which remains 4 to 5 days.   Groups in general range from 30 to 80 people … but finally there is a trend toward large meetings of 100 or more participants.

Trend #4  Series Business … The Comeback Kid

Series meetings are staging a comeback, albeit tentatively and in many cases with fewer programs in the series. 

Customers continue to be cautious, with some promising a series -- but then booking one meeting at a time. 

TREND #5  Protein Anyone? 

The Atkins revolution is having a dramatic impact on morning & afternoon refreshment breaks, restaurant menus, and more.  Goodbye donuts, muffins & croissants … hello hardboiled eggs, cheeses, and cold cuts. 

Many meeting planners are requesting a completely carb-free break, hoping to avoid an afternoon "sugar crash." 

Trend #6  No Smoking Allowed 

No smoking anywhere at anytime in the building.  More and more meeting planners are requesting smoke-free environments. 

Demand for smoke-free rooms is on the increase and select Benchmark properties are now entirely smoke-free.

Trend #7  Welcome Back Teambuilding

Basic teambuilding is staging a comeback.  The focus this time around, however, is on social interaction rather than physical involvement -- getting groups to relax with each other, interact and learn to have fun while coming together as a unit to accomplish a task. 

Examples of popular teambuilding programs include Clown Olympics, the Great Chili Cook Off, and Culinary Teambuilding.  The one physically-involved exception is the ropes course, which is experiencing a resurgence of interest.

Trend #8  No Hidden Costs, Period! 

Many more corporate customers (as well as independent and / or part-time planners) are requesting help in compiling a complete budget for a meeting, including all hotel-related costs, destination-related expenses, transportation, golf & recreation, etc. They want no surprises, period!

Planners have become savvy with budgeting, and in some cases are expressing concerns about the "cost perception" of using a luxury vs. a serious meeting facility.

Trend #9  The Pace is Positive

Conference booking pace is up from 25% to 50% for 2004, depending on region, in comparison to the previous year. 

Repeat business, the long-awaited economic recovery, and active relationship selling are sited as contributing factors.

Trend #10  Five Hours of Fun

While groups are shortening their meetings, packing in content and closely watching the budget, they still want a recreational component -- typically an afternoon of activities. 

What's popular?  … 9-hole golf tournaments (or golf clinics for less-experienced players), volley ball games, group bike trips, sailing, and  "an afternoon at the spa" -- all of which can be accomplished in a half day. 

Onee More for the Road  Conference Center Confusion

After all these years, many meeting planners still seem not to understand the difference between hotels with meeting space and a true conference center.  Staff cutbacks and layoffs have created many part-time and first-time planners who need to be educated about the unique services and products offered by a true conference center, which maximize meeting productivity.   To add to the confusion, many hotels now offer their own version of the Complete Meeting Package.

For more information on Benchmark's "Top Ten Meeting Trends for 2004," or to speak with a Benchmark Hospitality representative, contact Ken Ellens, Ken Ellens Communications, at 201-758-2864 or KenEllens@aol.com.

Benchmark Hospitality, an independent hospitality management company based
in The Woodlands, Texas, operates resorts, conference centers and hotels both domestically and internationally.  For locations of Benchmark Hospitality properties and for additional information, visit Benchmark's Website at www.benchmarkhospitality.com.


 
Contact:
BENCHMARK HOSPITALITY
The Woodlands, Texas
www.benchmarkhospitality.com

 Ken Ellens
KEN ELLENS COMMUNICATIONS
201-758-2864 / 201-758-2865-Fax
KenEllens@aol.com

Also See: Ten Meeting Industry Trends for 2003 - Observed by Benchmark Resorts, Hotels & Conference Centers / Jan 2003
Ten Meeting Industry Trends Observed by Benchmark Resorts, Hotels & Conference Centers / Jan 2002


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