The Woodlands, Texas — Benchmark this week released a list of five trends that will transform meetings in 2020, as observed by its national portfolio of meeting properties; the hospitality management company operates 80 hotels, resorts, and conference centers within its Benchmark Resorts & Hotels, Gemstone Collection, and Benchmark Conference Centers brands.
Ted Davis, chief sales and marketing officer, said that this year, millennials will be a “dominant force” in the world of meetings and events. “Their impact is being felt by planners and venues alike,” Davis added. “Our sales and conference services teams interact closely with millennials, responsive to their needs for everything from building personal time into meetings to accommodating a myriad of out-of-the-ordinary dining requests to creating curated destination experiences customized to the individual interests of the millennial—all of which needs to be considered when planning, preparing for, and executing meetings today. This is having a transformative influence on how we approach the group meeting experience in 2020 and beyond.”
Millennials in the Meetings Mainstream
Millennials have moved into the meetings mainstream. Conference attendees in 2020 increasingly average in age from 30-45 years. This generation’s tech-savvy is reflected in their expectations whether meeting for business or pleasure. What does this mean for planners and for suppliers? With millennials comes an accompanying demand for highly advanced and sophisticated technology, wider dietary requirements, personal enrichment experiences curated to individual interests, privacy concerns going well beyond technology, and toward individual wellness during the meeting, with planners building in private, personal time for attendees.
Sustainable Food & Beverage 2.0
Creative, sustainable, and plant-based cuisine are the new go-to food choices for 2020, as is an emphasis on accommodating a growing list of dietary restrictions. What meeting attendees put into their bodies impacts attentiveness and productivity, so healthy refreshment breaks are a high priority, too. Increasingly, planners want to know where a property’s food ingredients are sourced (this includes at the bar for such items as organic liquors), how food and beverage selections are prepared, and that an executive chef can easily accommodate a growing number of diet requests that are no longer considered “special.”
Demand Holds Firm
Meeting demand is holding firm this year, despite economic, political, and business concerns. Planners are slower to commit, perhaps waiting to see what else is coming down the pike. That said, pricing has not taken a hit as of yet, and is, for the most part, on the increase with planners actively seeing the value of meeting packaging, which is experiencing strong demand. Meeting length remains, on average, three days and the average group size is actually on the rise. Pharma, education, and technology are the top three industries hosting meetings in 2020.
Giving Back While Coming Together
Teambuilding is the most popular inclusion in meetings this year, and initiatives that involve the community and charitable activities for social impact are what planners are looking for in 2020. Planners also want to incorporate group experiences that inspire productivity, positive change, and leadership development; this is especially the case in the tech industry.
Get Out and Explore
Wanderlust and the desire to explore and discover is a flourishing element of meeting agendas in 2020. Moving off property and experiencing the local color—whether historic and cultural sites, cutting-edge restaurants, or micro-distilleries—is a frequent request of planners for their groups this year, even if for an evening. Planners and properties are curating these experiences for individual and group enrichment in hopes that attendees return to the meeting refreshed and having learned or experienced something unique in the destination.