The Future of the UK MICE Market: Online Training Session Takeaways
“Our clients need to be able to trust us and trust that any venues we’re suggesting are completely COVID ready, and that covers so many different things,” heeded Susan Brogan – Director of Venue Seekers and Member of AIEA, guest speaker at Great Hotels of the World exclusive members-only Online Training session on The Future of the UK MICE Market.
How are your hotels and teams preparing this high revenue-generating segment? Are you reallocating resources to respond better and faster to more complex RFPs? Are you listening to your clients and responding to their needs?
Understanding the evolving and specific needs from the buyers perspective will be crucial to getting back to generating revenue from events. So in this post, we share a summary of key insights and takeaways resulting from our members-only Online Training Session and the two participating guest speakers: Anthony Kelly, Head of Marketing at DRPG & Penguins and Co-Chair Digital Transformation Taskforce at SITE and Susan Brogan, Director of Venue Seekers and Member of AIEA.
ICYMI – In Case You Missed It
The UK has one of the most developed outbound markets in the world. With strong demand for both premier, well-established destinations such as Madrid, Lisbon and Amsterdam as well as emerging destinations including Vilnius, Warsaw and Montenegro, 2019 saw international events with more attendees, increased hotel rates and flight prices, and bigger budgets with a strong emphasis on experience and quality. Of course, in 2020 this has all changed.
Currently, international events are on pause and a significant number of UK’s event professionals are on furlough. However, the travel industry is moving at warp speed with borders opening up and flight resumption announcements to key destinations being made on the daily. Industry-wide regulations and best practices are enforced and amended as situations evolve and behind the scenes, the events industry is undergoing massive change – closures, mergers and acquisitions.
Of course, virtual events seem to be all anyone can talk about and venue suppliers scramble to figure out what this means for them.
The New Normal
In the short, to midterm, the event industry will be moving to a more hybrid model. Travel restrictions and health and safety measures are forcing companies that would have brought 4000 employees to one venue, to look at hiring a number of smaller satellite venues spread over several geographies to live stream the event.
This will create an opportunity for hotels to bring clients they wouldn’t normally have had before. Partnering with international brands that can offer companies standard amenities, services, and comparable experiences will be important.
ETTA – Estimated Time of Arrival (of outbound group inquiries from the UK)
As expex+ted, smaller and more local events are being planned for the tail-end of 2020 in venues outside of city centres with plenty of green spaces and parking available on site so attendees can avoid public transport.
Events professionals are now receiving RFPs for outbound events estimated to take place in 2021 and 2022. Though this may seem far off, the reality is that now is the time to plan out and communicate all necessary operational changes – taking into account the changing landscape.
Hygiene and Safety – in the eye of the beholder
When it comes to health, hygiene and safety, guest perception will be more important than actual policy or implementation. Meaning that whether measures change or not – because in many cases hotels already have stringent and broad policies in place – the perception that clients have of increased hygiene will be the real focus. This could mean having a steam cleaner in reception, or people with thermometers taking temperature on arrival so that guests can visualize safety and hygiene taking place for themselves. Or, having a crisp white sheet covering the bed when guests come into the room so that it feels like they’re the first person walking into that room. Force Majeure to cover both the client and the venue.
Reassurance and Confidence
To promote your venue effectively you’ll need to be as detailed and graphic as possible about how meetings will run safely in a post COVID world. Provide new floor plans and capacity charts that show how venues will be set up differently to take social distancing measures into account or provide virtual walkthroughs. Explain how breakfast buffets, coffee breaks, lunches and dinners have changed to accommodate the new requirements. This may include, for example, reverting to a booth style set up that prevent gatherings of more than four people in one area.
Of course, no deal is sealed without a contract and during these uncertain times, contracts too will have to change to ensure flexibility and adaptability to allow clients and venues to work together in real-time as needed. This means making sure your contracts provide flexibility on postponement and cancellations, otherwise, companies may simply not commit. Additionally, Force Majeure clauses will have to cover both the client and the venue.
On a positive note, Anthony Kelly believes “Humans are very fickle and we’ll all soon forget all this. The minute we miss human connection, the minute we miss the opportunity to talk and engage with people and the real-life value, and the minute we can get back to that (as long as we don’t have a second peak) we’ll return very quickly. Next year will be a boom year for us all.”
Great Hotels of the World wants to be a part of building your success. We believe independent hotels have an important role to play in the industry and in their local communities.
On June 25 we’ll be holding our 3rd Online Training Session focusing on the German MICE market. For more information visit us at https://join.ghotw.com/