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2017 Meetings Industry Forecast

By Jillian Fehrenbach on Feb 16, 2017 in Group Travel, Incentive Travel, Individual Travel

I've had the opportunity to read several recaps on the trends predicted to impact the Meetings Industry this year. One of the best was in a recent webinar by Meetings Today and U.S. Travel featuring Michael Dominguez, SVP & CSO for MGM Resorts. Dominguez is a popular speaker in the industry, and for good reason. He's knowledgeable, matter of fact and makes his topics easy to understand. Following are some of the highlights from the webinar.

This won't come as a surprise, but 2016 was the most disruptive year in history. And if the past few months are any indication, that isn't going to change in 2017. However, the hotel industry continues to thrive.  2015 was a record year for hotels by all measurements: occupancy, rate and REVPAR. And then came 2016, when the same thing happened again. The amount of growth is slowing, but it still continues to grow, even coming off two record years in a row.

Transient demand is off the charts, which is one of the factors contributing to this record growth and to groups having trouble finding space, particularly in first-tier cities. This is benefitting second-tier cities to some extent, but air lift can be challenging to those cities. But who am I kidding? Air lift can be challenging to first-tier cities as well! Groups should consider a Sunday or Monday night arrival to improve chances of finding space as oftentimes these are two nights hotels still have availability.

The pace of change in general makes it very hard to keep up with competitors, let alone the latest market trends. Dominguez cited a quote by Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, "In the new world, it is not the big fish eating the small fish, it is the fast fish eating the slow fish". I think we can all relate to those words. In fact, Dominguez went on to say that in any given meeting, 40% of the people there will be irrelevant in five years simply because they can't adapt to change or are unwilling to "unlearn" previously accepted practices.

The webinar also addressed several industry myths--some I will admit I considered to be fact.

  • Airbnb isn't hurting the hotel industry, it's expanding it. I referenced earlier that first-tier cities have very limited availability. Considering Airbnb has its largest presence in the biggest cities, it stands to reason they are actually bringing business to these cities rather than taking business away from hotels.
  • It's All Digital: E-books are actually in decline and Amazon is opening bricks and mortar book AND grocery stores. And believe it or not, vinyl records are making a comeback.  
  • Older millennials (28 - 35) act just like every other generation did at that same age. And they want to meet face-to-face more than any other peer group.

Wellness, however, isn't a myth. This is a trend we'll continue to see grow and the challenge is how to take it from the hotel experience and incorporate it into meetings and events.  

And finally, all this disruption isn't limited to us here in the States. Europe kicked off the disruption with the Brexit vote last year, and there is more in store for them just as there is for the rest of the world. So, hold onto your hats folks--it's going to be a bumpy, but also a very interesting ride!