Trend towards larger meeting groups

After deferring, cancelling or drastically cutting back on both size and frequency of meetings for more than a year now, professional meeting planners are scheduling more site inspections and booking much larger groups for 2011 and 2012, according to John Washko.

The vice president of the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs told David Brudney of that there are three recent trends:

• More organizations are giving a green light for future meetings.

• The Broadmoor is converting more and more smaller groups (less than 150 room peak night) this year.

• Groups booking for 2011 and 2012 have much larger room blocks.

“We’re seeing a definite ‘uptick’ in site inspections and that tells us that more organizations are putting some real skin in the game – – a very positive sign,” Washko said.

The size of meetings is increasing, according to Washko.

“A number of corporate groups in 2009 that were 75-95 peak room nights are now up to 150 peak. We find association groups getting bigger, corporate groups remaining smaller”.

“There’s much better production in this year and future years, but not back to those heavy demand levels of ’07 and our record year of ’08, while bookings overall for 2011 are fairly robust,” Washko said.

Washko predicts the booking pace will only increase with more sense of urgency on the part of the planner. “Compression is starting to build. Groups are now faced with having to sacrifice first choice of dates and hotels due, in part, to this new compression”.

Washko acknowledged his resort experienced a huge downturn in demand with the start of the fourth quarter 2008 carrying over throughout 2009. “We had multiple cancellations in year for 2009 and for our future pipeline”, said Washko.

He said that one tactical change involved removing a sales manager from a geographical market with a lower yield, and placed full time in the Denver Metropolitan market as a specialist with responsibility for group, social and PR.

Another much bolder tactical step was the launching of the “Meetings Guarantee” program in early 2009. The Broadmoor announced if any meeting, conference, corporate retreat, or incentive program booked through 2011 that failed to meet expectations “in terms of value, service, facilities and quality,” the master account would be waived. “We perform or it’s free. Guaranteed,” was the slogan.

By David Wilkening

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