For the second panel discussion of the morning we were joined by Peter Heath, Managing Director at Venue Performance, Leigh Cowlishaw, Consultant Executive Director at HBAA, and Michael Grove, Chief Operating Officer at Hotstats. Cameron Roberts, Digital and Community Editor at Conference News, moderated the session.
Watch the full video and read the key takeaways below.
Table of Contents
Watch The Panel Discussion
The data is looking positive
The appetite for events is returning and enquiries are coming in but the level of conversion and commitment is still lacking. Venues have invested so much time and energy in ensuring that their terms remain flexible, so we are starting to see activity coming back. The data is showing us hotspots in availability due to an influx in booking events which have been continuously pushed back, showing that the ability to book at certain points in the year is now getting harder, which is almost a nice problem to have.
It's also important to look at the data to see how it might affect the industry from a travel and accommodation perspective. Looking at global performance from a report recently released by Hotstats, some countries, such as China, have actually beaten their profitability levels for conferencing and banqueting in hotels from the levels they saw in 2019, which gives a huge insight into what can happen once corporate travel is back on the cards.
Do provisional bookings = a true reflection of the industry?
With so much provisional business sat on our books, it's difficult to know whether this is a true reflection of the state of the market, or whether it's just a current booking trend.
So how will we see how much truth is in what the data is telling us? The answer isn't a straightforward one, but it is likely that all of the pent-up demand for events will eventually drive the comeback of the industry and prove the data to be correct, it's just a matter of when.
Keeping up with hotels
Going forward, technology will be the key element that venues will need to keep up with to ensure they have state-of-the-art offerings that will help drive business. This is made slightly more difficult because hotels tend to be very well funded and venues will likely find themselves competing against them. Having said that, as many hotels cater to large conferences, they'll need to ensure they are well equipped for hybrid events in order to stay current.
In terms of profit and loss that hotels see off the back of events, conferencing on its own does not contribute much actual profit. It's the revenue that comes along with the conference, such as accommodation, parking, onsite restaurants and bars, spa and leisure etc that helps drive their profit margins higher. This is even more of a reason for venues to ensure they're not only Covid-safe, but that they're investing in the latest tech that planners need to see in order to have the confidence to book there.
Data and client actions
A lot has changed in terms of how we behave and how we conduct business. From a corporate perspective, policies have changed hugely in the past 18 months and performance and values have been intensely scrutinised, so they'll want to be seen to be doing the right thing for their business. In terms of events, people will be asking more often whether an in-person meeting is necessary or whether they need to travel to a conference for example. We are now focusing much more on the sustainability of a business long-term, so the data will be absolutely key for business decisions going forward, and that includes events.
What should organisers be expecting from venues in order to have the confidence to make bookings, especially for hybrid events?
We all have minimum expectations when running events, which have definitely been heightened in terms of delivery throughout the pandemic. Ultimately, we are relying on technology (Wifi in particular) in order to fulfil the objectives of the event, so we do need to be expecting venues to react to this demand. In response to this, we are seeing venues coming out more and more to differentiate themselves from their competitors and investing in different things in order to win bookings.
About The Speakers
Peter Heath, Managing Director, Venue Performance
Peter has worked in the meeting & events industry both in the UK & internationally for over 25 years and has always been focused on helping clients improve their performance. He created the Venue Performance benchmarking platform in direct response to requests from both event venues and booking agents.
Leigh Cowlishaw, Consultant Executive Director, HBAA
Managing Partner of Black Box Partnerships and Balancing Edges, with experiences in supplier management, customer exec sponsorship and account management, creating and implementing propositions for accommodation, meetings and events for venues and agencies. Former chair of HBAA. Currently taking an active part in the Association today with strategic and development of partnerships - Advisory Board member of Wizzme - Vice Chair of Eventwell - Steering Group Board member of the Meetings Show and CHS.
Michael Grove, Chief Operating Officer, Hotstats
Hotstats provide monthly P&L benchmarking & market insight for the hotel industry. Collecting monthly detailed financial data from over 7,500 hotels worldwide from over 100 brands and independent hotels, Hotstats provide over 550 different KPIs covering all operating revenues, payroll, expenses, cost of sales and ultimately departmental and total hotel profitability. Prior to joining Hotstats, Michael held multiple Operational & Financial roles at Hotel and Corporate level, over 16 years and is a regular guest lecturer at universities around the world.
Cameron Roberts, Digital and Community Editor, Conference News
A journalist by trade, Cameron has worked in and around the events industry for several years as a content manager and conference producer, creating content for both in-person and digital events.
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