With higher travel and accommodation costs a likely cause for seeing fewer attendees per meeting right now, event hosts are leaning on properties to help them create as much attendee interaction and bonding as possible. That’s the general consensus of executives who manage the 61 Benchmark Hotels and Resorts across North America, according a recent release by Pyramid Global Hospitality, Benchmark’s parent firm.
First, “there has been a huge surge in group demand for short-term, last-minute bookings this year, and pace for early 2023 is equally strong,” says Eric Gavin, chief commercial officer of the luxury and lifestyle division of Pyramid Global Hospitality. “Changed working patterns are creating more necessity for regional gatherings, which is partly driving the short-term nature of bookings.”
With more regionals happening, Gavin notes that Benchmark’s property managers see that “group-event sizes have condensed a bit, and that there’s been a clear drop in demand for integrating remote employees into an on-site meeting, except among clients that have a sizable international base. ... These smaller gatherings have brought opportunities for alternative meeting set-ups tailored to more intimate experiences. It could be something such as a living-room design in a traditional meeting space, or spreading out smaller discussion groups” across other spaces away from the formal meeting space, and perhaps to an outdoor patio or pavilion.
Given that return on investment for events more critical in the present high-cost environment, Benchmark’s property managers are seeing clients build program schedules with somewhat less formal learning time in lieu of social activations where attendees can build connections in less-prescribed ways. Examples include half-day community-service projects such as refurbishing a school, playground, or home, or assisting a local social-services group.
Further, many groups want more casual on-site events where connections can happen organically, with fewer requests for formal awards dinners right now. For instance, Benchmark property managers note a growing number of requests for karaoke—an activity that has attendees focused on one another rather than on a professional entertainer. Another increasingly popular option: fire-pit gatherings that promote storytelling by attendees on both professional and personal topics, while featuring after-dinner refreshments as well.