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Going Behind the Curtain on Meeting-Venue Finances

A new IACC/SHFM report provides planners a back-of-the-house perspective on meeting prices, costs, sales tactics, and other useful data.

In early August, IACC (formerly International Association of Conference Centers) and the Society of Hospitality & Foodservice Management unveiled a research report titled “Trends in the Meeting Venue Industry” that sheds light on how conference centers sell, operate, and allocate revenue and costs for the group business that comes through their doors.

Based on 2018 operating data collected from 69 corporate, executive, and university conference centers in the U.S., the report found the average revenue per occupied guest room at conference centers to be $321. The element driving the most growth in this figure is average daily guest-room rate at conference centers: about $150 in 2018 versus about $116 in 2015. Besides guest-room revenue, the other elements that comprise RevPOR are meetings-related revenues plus attendee spending on F&B, spa and recreational amenities, and venue-operated retail outlets.

For daily (non-residential) meeting packages, the average rate for internal meetings was $95.44, while the average rate for external meetings was $124.20. Internal meetings are those connected to the facility's owner (for instance, Deloitte, GE, and University of Florida are conference-center owners), while external meetings are those of outside organizations.

Interestingly, only 50 percent of responding properties allocate each group’s meeting package revenue (which excludes the guest-room rate) across different departments. For internal meetings, properties allocate 31 percent of package revenue to refreshment breaks; 24 percent to lunch; 22 percent to conference planning/services; 17 percent to meeting space; two percent to AV; and four percent to miscellaneous expenses.

For external meetings, properties allocate 35 percent to meeting space; 21 percent to lunch; 19 percent to conference planning/services; 18 percent to refreshment breaks; four percent to audiovisual; and four percent to miscellaneous expenses.

When it comes to selling their low-demand periods, 60 percent of responding venues said that they offer groups additional incentives to book—but 73 percent of those venues also enforce an “appropriate room size for group” policy to discourage disproportionate use of meeting space, while 53 percent enforce a “no-show” penalty charge for unfulfilled guest rooms.

The full report can be purchased here.

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