As the “Future of Meetings” webinar and the related research highlighted, the meetings and convention industry is undergoing rapid change and disruption. The impact of new technologies, the increasing range of online meetings solutions and platforms, shifts in meeting preferences and a demand for new accommodation and venue options are just some of the changes impacting meetings, events and conferences. Destination Marketing Organizations and their industry partners need to respond by understanding these changes and areas of opportunity and investing in new solutions to meet the needs of meeting planners and ultimately, attendees.
Here are five examples of areas where destinations and Convention & Visitor Bureaus are innovating in the meetings space:
1. High Tech, High Touch
The online meeting planning sites for Memphis CVB and Austin CVB sought to combine deep rich content, powerful online planning tools and personal service. In-depth information on meeting venues, hotels, activities and more can be searched in multiple ways including using interactive maps – focusing on the critical questions that planners ask: availability, location, property and venue types. This extensive online content is integrated with a personal call to action – with invitations from individual CVB staff to contact them for more information.
Wider Trend & Takeaway: This online solution leverages the increasingly hyper-informed nature of meeting planners who are increasingly looking for not only information (which is readily available online now more than ever), but for customized content that can be distilled, filtered and personalized to fit their needs. CVBs need to invest in ensuring their online and traditional information is fulfilling this need.
2. New Spaces & Solutions to Connect Attendees
Vienna’s “Meeting2Go” solution allows meetings from the city’s convention center to be seamlessly moved out to the neighboring Donaupark – the leafy park next door. This provides a new and engaging meeting space to complement the traditional convention center style rooms. The center offers smart, innovative furniture for this area (self-inflatable seating areas called “FatBoys”) and a robust outdoor, portable Internet solution, “WebCubes”. This gives outdoor meetings and networking events a high-speed, integrated Wi-Fi and network solution - allowing delegates to seamlessly watch sessions from across the convention center while connecting with each other and the world.
Wider Trend & Takeaway: One of the fast-growing areas of meetings demand and venue development is around innovative, highly customizable meeting space solutions. The need for reliable Wi-Fi and network solutions is also an area of increasing demand but continues to be a challenge for some venues faced with huge surges in data use at meetings. Offering smart solutions in both of these areas is increasingly critical.
3. New Accommodation Solutions
San Francisco Travel tackled two changes affecting both the travel and meetings industries: the rapid change & fragmentation of hotel bookings and the rise of peer-to-peer accommodations. Through an innovative attendee room solution with Booking.com, San Francisco Travel’s Convention Housing Services and meeting organizers are able to offer a booking solution after hotel cut off dates and for hotels outside of a room block – while still being able to track and help manage these bookings. SF Travel’s meetings team also worked collaboratively with AirBnB on providing peer-to-peer accommodations as part of the room solution for certain events, developing a new accommodation option for attendees. San Francisco was one of the first cities in which Airbnb started collecting bed tax for the city, removing one common concern of CVBs and city government.
Wider Trend & Takeaway: Traditional control and use of meeting room blocks is quickly declining as a result of the rise of powerful online marketing and distribution channels including OTAs such as Booking.com. CVBs need to explore new booking solutions, integrate new rooms types (like peer-to-peer accommodation) and find new ways to measure and report on conference results.
4. Green Meetings
While Vancouver boasts the “greenest” convention center on the planet (the West Building of the Vancouver Convention Center recently became the World’s first Double LEED platinum certified Convention Center), Copenhagen is arguably the world’s overall greenest destination for meetings. Leading the green initiative, the city is a world leader in public transportation, uses both pedestrian and cycle-friendly designs throughout the city and offers Eco-Certified hotel rooms. The city’s goal is to be the first capital city to become carbon neutral by 2025.
Wider Trend & Takeaway: Green travel and meetings may face some political headwinds in the US but in some parts of the US and destinations around the world, they are an increasingly important part of a meeting planner’s decision on a destination and venue. With the widening impacts of climate change becoming more obvious, this trend can be expected to accelerate over a long period of time. Sustainability standards and solutions for meeting venues and destinations will become a “need to have” rather than a “nice to have” for many meetings.
5. Next Generation Content Solutions
CVBs and convention centers have been slow to adopt immersive content solutions like virtual reality and live streaming video (eg: Facebook Live) to showcase their meeting venues and potentially provide “virtual site visits”. The newly refurbished Orange County Convention Center in Orlando has made some investments in this space with a 3D site presentation platform (Atlas360) that offers VR-enabled photospheres, images and 3D models of the center. Planners can develop custom layouts, view the results in either 2D or 3D and share and submit them for cost proposals. Marriott was an early innovator using live streaming technologies (eg: Periscope, Facebook Live), offering live "virtual site inspections" for 14 of its European Hotels. While a few events and convention centers have tested 3D Holograms, based on recent announcements, this technology could take a leap forward to help blend real and virtual meetings.
Wider Trend & Takeaway: Next generation content solutions including VR, AR, live streaming and 3D Holograms are only slowly penetrating the meetings space. Cost, complexity and slow penetration of technologies (eg. VR headsets) remain issues. Watch this space and look for simple, low-cost ways to test new technologies.