What Meeting Planners Want

Boring basics outrank shiny new experiences.

Meeting planners — site selection

Unique experiences and award-winning restaurants are the shiny new penny in the meetings-and-events industry. However, what meeting planners really want are the basics.

Based on the responses in STR’s Destination Meeting Assessment Program (DestinationMAP) 2019 survey, the majority of planners still rank safety, cleanliness, accessibility, and value as their top considerations when selecting a destination for a meeting or event. The number of hotel rooms available ranks fifth on the list, followed by several other hotel-specific considerations, ranging from conference hotel attractiveness to upscale offerings. These rankings are not all that different from 10 years ago.

Despite all of the buzz in the industry, unique experiences (both venues and food) and award-winning restaurants show up only at the bottom of the list, with under a third of meeting planners considering these items “very important” when selecting a meeting/event destination. That’s not to say these are not significant; it just shows that there are other factors taking precedence for a majority of meeting planners.

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Planners were asked specifically how North American markets performed with these same considerations. The rankings—which show average performance across the 42 markets—follow a somewhat different pattern relative to importance. In terms of market performance, hotel room availability and upscale hotels were the highest-rated areas across both the hotel-specific considerations and all other considerations. Safety, cleanliness, and accessibility ranked next in line, while cost-related considerations (value for money and moderate lodging costs) rated lowest, on average. Notable is the relatively strong market performance for the three experiential considerations, as well as the consistency of these three ratings.

As the economy starts to slow, it is critical for hoteliers, convention and visitor bureaus, destination marketing organizations, and meeting planners to understand the entire spectrum of what drives the meetings industry.

So, besides wanting the basics, markets and the hotels in those markets would do well to provide value and affordability because it is in this area where the gap may present an opportunity. The shining penny of experience carries some weight, but as the economy starts to slow, it is critical for hoteliers, convention and visitor bureaus, destination marketing organizations, and meeting planners to understand the entire spectrum of what drives the meetings industry.

What Meeting Planners Want

These results are based on a comprehensive study of more than 1,000 North American meeting planners. The DestinationMAP provides a detailed description of planners’ preferences and their perceptions of 42 North American markets across more than 60 considerations. The study, now in its 18th publication, allows trend analysis of the issues most important to meeting planners in site selection, ranging from the basics to experiential considerations.

 


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