New survey by Pompan Hospitality Global finds many dedicated conference facilities see the need to adjust their meeting packages to reflect customer preferences

Published on : Thursday, December 5, 2013

phg logoAccording to a survey of executives at 26 dedicated conference facilities in the United States and Canada, the inclusive meeting package – a central component of these facilities’ offerings, and a competitive differentiator versus hotels – must become more customizable to fulfill the needs and perspectives of today’s meeting customers.  The survey was completed in mid-November 2013 by PHG Research, a division of Pompan Hospitality Global Inc. (PHG), a hospitality consulting firm based in Easton, PA, that provides advisory services to hotel and conference center developers, owners, operators and municipalities.

Dedicated conference facilities – defined as such because at least two-thirds of their total business comes from meeting and conference groups – plan to continue offering packages that include several meeting-related elements, in order to simplify the planning process for clients and to deliver maximum value. But the research shows that the managers who operate these properties see the need to be more flexible and creative in crafting those packages, responding to customer desires.

Significant findings:

• Almost half of responding properties say that the complete meeting package (CMP) represents less than 10 percent of the packages they sell. And two-thirds of properties say that less than half of meeting packages sold are CMPs. The most common definition of the CMP is a package that includes a guest room, proportionate meeting space, basic AV, three meals, and continuous refreshment breaks. High speed internet access is included in CMPs at 60 percent of responding properties.

•While customers indicate that they find meeting packages easier to work with than pricing a meeting a la carte, nearly 60 percent of responding property executives say that customers find a modified meeting package (MMP) offers greater value to them than a CMP. And 41.7 percent of respondents say their MMP volume has increased in the past three years.

• The top two reasons for customers to opt for MMPs, according to respondents: desire for flexibility in choosing dinner options, and desire to save money in whichever areas they can.

• Day meeting packages (DMP) are popular; one-third of the properties say this package product represents 40 percent or more of their business. Further, 83.3 percent of respondents say that demand for the DMP has increased or stayed the same in the past three years.

• DMPs are not used just for single-day events; 33 percent of respondents say that clients find greater value in purchasing a DMP with a separate guest room rate, indicating that their meetings extend over multiple days.

Analysis of survey findings:

“The data supports our belief that the market is moving away from the CMP in favor of the MMP, or a DMP with or without guest rooms,” says Neil Pompan, president of PHG. “In our opinion, this shift is in no way an indictment of the conference-center concept.  Many meeting planners still seek the ease of crafting a total meeting experience based on the expertise found among conference-center sales and service personnel. But at the same time, planners are looking for more flexibility in how they purchase this experience, given their organization’s perception of need, and of value. Therefore, flexibility in how packages are offered is critical for facilities that want to thrive.”

The study also indicated there are varying ideas about how the MMP is defined. “To some centers, an MMP is simply a CMP without breakfast. To others, it is a CMP without dinner. And to still others, it is a CMP without breakfast or dinner. But to the majority of respondents, an MMP is any package that varies from the CMP or DMP which is created to fulfill a customer’s need,” added Pompan.  “Such diversity of definitions leads to customer confusion; it would serve the conference-center niche well to better define the MMP.”

Tom Cappucci, a regional director for Pompan Hospitality Global Inc., adds that “the increased demand for MMPs is a sign of how customers are moving away from formalized meeting structures, in favor of designing meetings that reflect their organization’s culture as much as possible. With their relationship-based selling efforts, properties must ask more questions about a clients’ organization and the purpose of the meeting before presenting any package concept.  Questions about company culture, meeting goals, attendee profiles, and more are important in developing the right meeting package for a group. Once an understanding is established on the desired conference experience, a package can be designed to meet most, if not all of their goals and objectives.”

One more conclusion, from a wider perspective:

While meeting packages are a hallmark of dedicated conference facilities and offer the benefit of simplicity and value to clients, properties must not be wedded to the CMP or to every single element offered in packages other than the CMP.

A critical component of success in this area: Dedicated conference facilities must get their message of flexibility out to meeting planners at least as strongly as they promote the concept of inclusive meeting packages. Because when combined their superior meeting facilities, such flexibility could help drive more business to the dedicated conference facility niche versus traditional hotels

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