Senior Vice President, Lodging Insights
The global meetings-hotel segment got decimated by the Covid pandemic. Corporate demand, both transient and group, came to an almost complete halt. But 2021 will be the year of recovery.
First, I am not a big believer in the idea of a “closure tsunami” washing over the U.S. hotel market. Yes, some meetings-oriented hotels are temporarily closed, and some might permanently close. But the reality is that there is a lot of equity capital on the sidelines ready to take advantage of opportunities. So, will we see plenty of hotel-ownership changes? Absolutely. But I think the closure rate will be smaller than most people expect.
On the demand side, meeting space should be easy to come by in the first six months of 2021—but it seems that group bookings after Labor Day are strong as corporations and associations try to make up for lost time. So, as paradoxical as it seems as you read this now, meetings-focused hotels might actually be pretty full in the last two quarters of 2021.Another factor: Social-distancing rules have increased sharply the space requirements per attendee, with the effect that meetings properties might actually sell out of space more easily. Luckily, though, if we have learned anything in 2020, it is how to host virtual meetings. So in 2021, organizers will need to fully embrace the hybrid format, where some attendees will be in the ballroom and some at home. Producing meaningful events for both online and in-person attendees will be key to strengthening the ties between attendees and a corporation’s or association’s mission
After nine months of Zoom, Teams, Webex, and GoToMeeting, one thing has become abundantly clear: Businesspeople are eager to engage in person again. Hotel staff stand ready to support the meetings professional however they can in 2021 and do what they do best: welcome guests to their properties.