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Hot Issues for Incentive and Meeting Planners in 2014

Crucial topics for the coming year include the rising costs of hotels and air travel and the need for strategies to address future political controversies.

The Epicurean Hotel opens in Tampa December 18 and will include a culinary classroom that can be used by groups. The 2014 forecast predicts demand for hotel space for groups will outpace supply in North America. Rendering: Courtesy of Epicurean

The Epicurean Hotel opens in Tampa December 18 and will include a culinary classroom that can be used by groups. The 2014 forecast predicts demand for hotel space for groups will outpace supply in North America.

Rendering: Courtesy of Epicurean

Incentive and meeting professionals need to be more proactive in dealing with political issues. That was one of the key messages from David Peckinpaugh, president of Maritz Travel, during a session at the Site Global Conference, which wraps up today at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando. More than 400 professionals in the field of motivational events and incentive travel are attending the conference hosted by Site, a global organization whose members are focused on creating experiences that improve employee performance for companies around the world.

In a presentation about the state of the incentive and meeting industry in North America, Peckinpaugh said the leading issue is the ability to respond to political scrutiny like the fallout from the conferences held by the Internal Revenue Service and General Services Administration. The Meetings Mean Business Coalition, a public relations effort from several industry organizations, will roll out a communication plan at P.C.M.A. Convening Leaders in January.

“We are still under attack,“ Peckinpaugh said. “We need a new approach and as an industry we need to coalesce in order to combat this. ... We’re going to be proactive and not reactive. The only way to combat the issues that at the core start in D.C. is to have one voice and have a consistent, consolidated, strategic effort.”

Another issue that will impact planners in the coming year is the lack of new group-oriented hotels in North America, while at the same time “demand has gone through the roof,” Peckinpaugh said. The disparity between supply and demand means planners may need to book more than two years in advance, and room rates will increase. “Hoteliers are predicting a 5 to 7 percent increase for 2014; I think that’s conservative,“ he said. “On the luxury end that will be higher.”

Costs are also increasing in the airline industry with both higher fares and added costs for luggage and seat choice. The first step in addressing these issues is to make inroads with the airline companies.

“They see themselves as part of the transportation industry but not part of the meetings industry,“ Peckinpaugh said. “I think that’s a big issue. We cannot do what we need to do without the airlines. They have to be at the table [because] there will be continued consolidation of the airlines, and it will have a significant cost impact on our businesses.”

Technology integration should also be a priority, and that means going beyond using mobile apps for online booking, registration, and schedule management. The focus is moving to “experiential design” of programs that engage participants in every phase of a program, using advanced tools such as augmented reality and crowdsourcing. “How do you create a technology platform that allows for a sharing of experiences?” Peckinpaugh said. “At the end of the day that’s really what’s going to rule the roost.”


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