100 Years of Advancing Destinations

The Voice of the Meeting Planner

Author: Guest Brittany Baldwin
Posted: November 17, 2014
Blog Topics Covered:

Brittany BaldwinDo you know what meeting planners really think about your destination? Because you likely have a considerable stake in attracting group business, the answer to this question probably has a significant impact on your marketing strategies. 

While STR is known for hotel performance data, we also produce DestinationMAP (meetings assessment program), a comprehensive study of meeting planners and the meetings market in North America.

The report provides a snapshot of meeting planners, their preferences, and their perceptions for North American destinations. Due to the depth and breadth of the study, STR conducts DestinationMAP every two years; 2013 being the last study conducted.  Within that study, we polled planners on the 40 major meeting markets listed below.

Below is a summary of some of the study’s key findings. 

What’s Really Important

The image below displays the considerations that meeting planners found most important for meeting site selection. Unsurprisingly, the highest level of importance was placed on past experience.

In fact, five of the top eight most important considerations (those connected by the gray lines) are user-generated content: the aforementioned past experience, attendee feedback, location reputation, recommendations and hotel ratings. 

The final three considerations (those with green lines) can be controlled or generated by key players in your destination: your hotels, your convention center or your CVB/DMO. The extent of your control varies, but if these considerations are influencing the opinions of your meeting planners, they should be a key part of your strategies moving forward. 

What’s Preventing Selection 

We also asked meeting planners to rate considerations that would likely cause them to rule out a destination for site selection. Below is a random collection of some of those considerations. 

Again, not a lot of surprise when it comes to the considerations most likely to deter meeting planners: unsanitary conditions, exorbitant costs and high crime rate. What may spark the interest of your hotel constituents however is that over half of respondents said they were very likely to rule out a destination due to aging hotels. Finally, a topic the industry was fixated on in the past, the “AIG Effect,” seems to be a distant memory as only 20% of meeting planners deem that a major deterrent. 

Impact of the Economy

Because this study is in its 15th reading, we are able to see how these considerations change over time. As the economy improves and the industry rebounds from recessions, some considerations become more or less important.

As you can see, discounts and concessions have become less important since 2009, though at 66%, many meeting planners are still seeking to negotiate. The same can be said of shopping price and value, as over half of meeting planners in 2013 said that they will continue to do so. However, the fact that these are both on the decline indicates that planners are no longer just shopping for an “item,” but are focused on the value and experience that a destination can offer their guests. 

Other trends are also becoming apparent – particularly that increasingly, meeting planners are leaning toward destinations that have a strong “business” reputation, and less toward destinations that are known for gambling and nightlife. Lower-tier hotel facilities were less popular as meeting sites in 2013 than they were in 2009, and only 4% of meeting planners are looking to replace geographic sites with webinars, compared to 17% in 2009. 

Looking Ahead

Finally, we asked meeting planners of the 40 markets listed where they were likely to hold meetings in the upcoming years. The top three destinations chosen were Chicago, Orlando and Las Vegas. 

Not a part of the 40 markets in the study?  No worries, STR conducts custom DestionationMAP studies to assist with any size market. 

You see your destination listed, but its ranking is lower than you anticipated?

Continue to focus on the elements that will make your market a likely candidate for meeting planners (those “very important” considerations above) and work to improve areas that planners may see as a deterrent. Furthermore, utilize your high ranking areas to promote your destination and dig deeper to find the reasoning behind lower ranking areas. You may find it to be a misconception with a simple solution 

Stay tuned as DestinationMAP 2015 will begin in the months to come! 

For more information on meeting planners’ opinions, contact me (bbaldwin@str.com) about DestinationMAP.