Originally published on Hotel Online
In contemplating the next generation of meetings and events, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: hotels must lean into some of the macro trends shaping our global society, particularly wellness and sustainability.
The new world we find ourselves in has propelled us to become more conscious in our daily lives and in the way we work, connect, and travel. The ability to make the future different (and better) than the past, however, requires reflection and innovation.
As part of a “New Golden Rules of Meetings & Events” series, we’ve combined insights from global hospitality experts, Amadeus business intelligence data, and key strategies to prepare hotels for success as group demand returns. Here we examine one of these golden rules on how to embrace macro trends shaping our industry, along with actionable tactics to reimagine a new era of experiences that guests can feel good about.
Reflecting on Sustainability
Hotels have been steadily adopting sustainable practices for years, with the demand now extending to meetings and events. Sustainability concerns pertaining to local sourcing, carbon and natural resource usage, incorporating renewable materials, and community-focused activities are likely to have a heavy impact on future attendee choices.
According to recent research by Booking.com, 83% of global travelers think sustainable travel is vital, with 61% saying the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably. For meeting and event professionals, sustainability matters even more than ever with 83% of organizations taking sustainability into account when planning, reports American Express.
Customers who are actively shaping their lifestyle around sustainability commitments or companies looking beyond optional daily housekeeping means a hotel’s larger sustainability initiatives can really be a make or break when it comes to choosing a property.
“We’re going to see sustainability and social responsibility in hospitality grow moving forward,” said Mauricio Ramirez, Commercial & Marketing Director at Mundo Imperial. There’s just more awareness that we’re not alone following the pandemic and people want to have more of a sense of community.”
With sustainability increasingly becoming a critical topic when selecting a hotel for meetings or events, make sure your sustainability program efforts are clearly communicated, including any impact metrics. Highlight breakout sessions or team building exercises that support the surrounding community, while exploring eco-friendly or shared transportation options for groups.
Making Food for Thought
The pandemic altered almost all functions of restaurant and banquet service globally, from government-ordered shutdowns and capacity limitations to disruptions in supply and labor shortages. How many of these changes remain in the long-term really comes down to varying comfort levels, cost, and the ability to secure the adequate labor and supply resources needed to provide elevated experiences.
When it comes to in-person events, this is particularly important with food and beverage (F&B) being one of the biggest components of delivering an exceptional experience. Fortunately, the pandemic has driven chefs to get creative in developing novel, elevated takes on traditional catering options.
Hors d’oeuvres have been imaginatively redesigned to prioritize safety, while individually packaged food items have been creatively branded and displayed. Finger foods moved into plastic or glass vessels, or skewers. Open culinary presentations such as buffets have shifted to attendant-served or smaller food stations showcasing high-quality, low-touch options.
With disruptions in supply chains, hotels and restaurateurs need to have open conversations with vendors to make sure the value and freshness of the products are really coming through. Focus on dishes that are most popular, easiest to prepare, least wasteful, and most profitable. Simplify the menu and number of dishes you offer if you have fewer kitchen staff. Finally, look for ways to incorporate a good composting and recycling program while simplifying the menu options to lessen group food waste.
Bringing Wellness into the Boardroom
The pandemic ushered in an unprecedented velocity of change, acting as a major catalyst for changes in human behavior. Our internal compass guiding the way we work, travel, and interact were suddenly disrupted, leaving many to emerge with a newfound focus on the importance of health and wellbeing.
Although the hospitality and events industry saw an increase in demand for wellness prior to the pandemic, recent employee survey findings from Deloitte reveal the pandemic amplified workforce fatigue with 77% of professionals experiencing burnout at their current job. This means providing a deeply relaxing and wellness-focused meeting or event experience will be highly appreciated.
From MGM Resorts Stay Well™ Meetings to Hilton’s EventReady Wellness programs, a growing number of hotels are encouraging wellness at events with fitness, mindfulness, and nutrition all being key components.
“People are very health conscious following the pandemic,” said Karen Marchand, Corporate Director of Catering and Conference Services, Noble House Hotels. “Hotels now have to offer packages that incorporate activities like yoga retreats that cater to those more health-conscious attendees. Planners are also now thinking, instead of cookies and popcorn, let’s try something healthier, like more low-calorie options or vibrant veggie displays.”
Work with your hotel team to offer group wellness activities such as sunrise or sunset yoga. Think of out-of-the-box ways to bring mood-enhancing or fitness elements into the boardrooms. Suggest incorporating refresh breaks to avoid meeting fatigue and allow for cognitive breaks or quiet areas where people can unplug. Offer branded wellness kits as swag or trade medicine balls, yoga mats, or exercise bikes for traditional seating. As hoteliers plan for a new path forward, they should consider reshaping meeting and event programs to better meet the demands of the new wellness-driven guest.
A new era of hospitality is ushering in both continued change and increased opportunity. In an evolving world where sustainability, wellness, and innovation will reign supreme, how you meet may be just as important as where you actually go. Hotels that can live up to the breadth and depth of these commitments will be the ones to capture the higher revenue-generating group business. Moving forward, having a dedicated focus to one or multiple of these areas could be what differentiates you from the competition. By embracing some of these macro trends shaping our industry and actionable tactics, you can create a blueprint for creating your own set of rules for the next generation of meetings and events.
For additional market insights and key strategies, download the full “Mastering the New Golden Rules of Meetings & Events” series to learn all the tips and tricks your hotel now needs to succeed.