AS the events and meetings industry takes on a more creative, dynamic approach to design and ideas, large hotel groups are also taking notice.
A recent report by Skift highlighted brands like Hyatt Hotels, Hilton Worldwide and MGM Resorts are actively developing strategies around their meeting platforms.
Skift said planners and delegates were getting tired of “boring banquets in big beige boxes”, and that demand for original concepts was on the rise. Whether or not this can be attributed to the shift in taste and style among millennials, planners and venues are encouraged to push the envelope day by day.
The largest hotel group of them all, Marriott International – a giant in the MICE market – introduced Meetings Imagined a couple of years back, a global meeting strategy that “reinvents how meetings are planned, making them more visual, social and purposeful”.
Asia Pacific vice-president of global sales Ramesh Daryanani told Travel Wire Asia the concept of Meetings Imagined was born from research that showed creativity was the meeting planners’ biggest challenge.
Through the same research, the company also discovered there are seven primary purposes for meetings: celebrate, decide, educate, ideate, network, produce and promote.
Set the mood for social gatherings with a lively DJ! Location: Cayman Marriott Beach Resort Home Via: Meetings Imagined pic.twitter.com/zWs61knJ1K
— lolafurnier (@lolafurnier) June 9, 2017
“The website is curated around these purposes and the component building blocks of meetings: setup, food and drink, tech and supplies as well as experiences,” he said.
Much like the colorful mood boards of Pinterest, the Meetings Imagined site sets up inspiration galleries, expert tips, and visual ideas for planners to peruse. Thereon, planners can set up their own accounts and design mood boards to present to clients; even in the initial stages of planning, the meeting proposals shape up to be considerably more exciting than black-and-white written proposals.
On the site, users can find and share images from events hosted around the world, collaborate with hotels to design custom experiences, view signature experiences featured at participating test hotels, as well as post favorite images on social media.
To make the digital experience more cohesive, the brand has a Meetings Services app where users can personalize connections and engage in constant communication with the hotel.
On top of that, since Marriott acquired Starwood Hotels & Resorts last year to become the biggest hotel brand in the world, there are no less than 6,000 properties under its belt.
This doesn’t include the 500 hotels in the pipeline for Marriott in China, a key market for the brand. Whether planners are after large-scale events or celebrity chefs, the choice of venues under the Marriott umbrella is unending.
Despite Marriott’s clout and the Meetings Imagined initiative, are the conversions showing when it comes to bookings?
“It works,” Daryanani said. “In our Event Satisfaction Survey, customers who use Meetings Imagined indicated they have a higher likelihood to recommend Marriott hotels to others.”
He said conversion rates were particularly high in Asia Pacific, as customers were shown to have higher scores than other parts of the world.
While creativity and efficiency are essential to planners, Daryanani noticed there’s a growing awareness about sustainability among clients.
The concern for quality food sources has seen global event planners look into environmental impacts (buying from local farmers instead of importing ingredients), community impacts (how their event spend could generate income for the local community), and scientific impacts (against the use of additives, hormones and genetically modified foods).
For example, Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park has tried to reduce their carbon footprint by sourcing from local communities; nearly 70 percent of the hotel’s produce is locally cultivated.
With more awareness on local cuisines, delegates are also more interested to try “ethnic cuisines” of their host countries during events. JW Marriott Hotel Seoul, for instance, curated a traditional menu for events that includes dishes like hwajeon (pan-fried rice cake), sanjeok (beef and vegetable roll), and makgeolli (Korean rice wine).
While it’s still unclear whether millennials are the reason more business events are creatively charged, this is not the first time Marriott has tried to cater to the “elusive” market.
In 2014, the brand debuted Moxy Hotels, a “boutique hotel line with the social heart of a hostel” which is said to “combine style, comfort, and affordability with a community atmosphere”.
According to the official brand overview, Moxy is “spirited – always buzzing with high energy, interesting people and an energetic crew.”
While sometimes contrived in the good spirit of targeting a big spending group, Marriott is stepping up efforts to make its products more relevant to younger, more jaded markets – even if it means playing up the idea meetings can be fun.