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What's New in Event Venues: IMEX Updates, Collaboration-Focused Meeting Rooms, Eco-Friendly Key Cards, and More

Rounding up the latest news from hotels, convention centers, meeting spaces, restaurants, and other event venues around the world.

What's New in Event Venues: Collaboration-Focused Meeting Rooms, Eco-Friendly Key Cards, IMEX Updates, and More
On BizBash this week, we took a look at how various resorts and facilities are welcoming a new wave of health-conscious group travel. Hilton Los Cabos, for example, offers activities BOGAFiT classes (pictured). See more: Namaste Out of Office: Why You Need to Plan a Corporate Wellness Retreat Now
Photo: Courtesy of Hilton Los Cabos

We're rounding up the biggest venue news of the month—in one convenient place. Got a tip? Get in touch!

In Case You Missed It
On BizBash this month, we've been rounding up exciting new event spaces around the country, including in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, ChicagoDallas/Fort Worth, Nashville, New Orleans, and New York. We also spotted 12 unique locations around the world available for group buyouts, checked out six properties that offer pickleball courts for team building, and learned how Georgia's Barnsley Resort brings Southern style to corporate events.

Looking for more hospitality-industry news? BizBash's editors also recently sat down with executives from Accor, who discussed the rise of "bleisure" travel, and the Four Seasons, who gave a behind-the-scenes look at the luxury group's creative rebrand. Meanwhile, longtime hospitality professional Lisa Messina, now the first-ever chief sales officer at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, shared insights from working in one of the country's top tourist destinations. What's New in Event Venues: Collaboration-Focused Meeting Rooms, Eco-Friendly Key Cards, IMEX Updates, and MoreBizBash also recently got a sneak peek inside Seattle's new convention building, along with other standout event spaces in the city. See more: Seattle’s New Convention Building, Summit, Is a Game-Changer For the CityPhoto: David Newman

Here are four more things you should know this month...

1. IMEX America is currently wrapping up in Las Vegas.
The annual trade show for the global meetings, events, and incentive travel industry tends to draw a who's-who of global destinations, who take over the show floor with eye-catching booths and interactive activities. We'll be bringing you more news from the show next week, but so far, reports coming from the event show positive signs for the event venue business.

Several exciting new event spaces have been announced, including a $100 million remodel of Las Vegas' 2.1 million-square-foot Mandalay Bay Convention Center, where the show is currently taking place; updates will include technology upgrades, digital signage, and a brand-new design, all expected to debut in 2024.

Another notable announcement? The Fontainebleau Miami Beach’s new 50,000-square-foot luxury events center is scheduled to open in early 2025 adjacent to the hotel. It will boast two dividable ballrooms, 10 breakout rooms, and a 9,000-square-foot rooftop deck, adding to the hotel’s existing 200,000 square feet of event space. What's New in Event Venues: Collaboration-Focused Meeting Rooms, Eco-Friendly Key Cards, IMEX Updates, and More“As we witnessed the influx of people and companies moving to Miami over the last three years, there was a clear opportunity to build on the long legacy of Fontainebleau Miami Beach as a leading destination for elite travelers and create an epicenter of experiences and events in South Florida,” said Brett Mufson, president of Fontainebleau Development, in a press release.Rendering: Courtesy of Fontainebleau Miami Beach

Various DMOs and CVBs also sounded optimistic during their IMEX announcements, including NYC & Company, which announced an anticipated 800,000 group room nights on the books through the end of this year. The bureau also announced that the city's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center is experiencing a resurgence of events, with a 14% increase in bookings from September through December over the same period last year.

2. Global hotel occupancy has officially exceeded pre-pandemic levels—but staffing issues are still a major issue.
The positive news from IMEX might not be surprising for anyone who saw the latest data from travel company Amadeus. The company’s Agency360 and Demand360 data sources are showing strong recovery indicators for the remainder of 2022. In fact, for the summer of 2022, global hotel occupancy hit an average of nearly 70%—which is an increase of around 5% over the summer of 2019.

As for group travel, the data shows that group occupancy is consistently between 1-2% of pre-pandemic levels for the remainder of 2022 as the conference sector starts to rebound; Amadeus' data also shows that group bookings are starting to extend more confidently into 2023, with 4.3 million bookings already made for early 2023.

However, challenges remain. According to a new member survey conducted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), 87% of hotels are still experiencing staffing shortages. Hotels are leaning into increased wages, greater flexibility with hours, and expanded benefits to try and recruit employees; national average hotel wages for 2022 now hover around $22 per hour, higher than any year on record.

The AHLA Foundation is also expanding its multi-channel advertising campaign to raise awareness of career paths in the hotel industry; click here for more information. “Today’s tight labor market is creating unprecedented career opportunities for current and prospective hotel employees, and AHLA and the AHLA Foundation are working tirelessly to spread the word," said AHLA president and CEO Chip Rogers. "With hotel wages, benefits, flexibility, and upward mobility at historic levels, there has never been a better time to work at a hotel."

3. Sustainability is staying at the forefront.
This column has reported on innovative sustainability-focused measures quite a few times in the past—and the news keeps coming, as more and more venues take drastic measures to go green. Last month, for example, Vancouver's 377-room Fairmont Pacific Rim eliminated all non-essential single-use plastics from its property, earning North America's first Single-Use Plastic Free Certification from British Columbia-based GreenStep Solutions IncWhat's New in Event Venues: Collaboration-Focused Meeting Rooms, Eco-Friendly Key Cards, IMEX Updates, and MoreThe four-year process involved replacing 36,000 plastic key cards with reusable, FSC-certified cherry wood (pictured); replacing all small bath amenity bottles, water bottles, and laundry bags with reusable alternatives; and incorporating fiber-based solutions for F&B containers and cutlery.Photo: Courtesy of Fairmont Pacific Rim

Meanwhile, Universal EV Chargers, a division of Universal Green Group, recently secured nearly $10 million in government green energy grants to help the hotel industry and other businesses offer electric vehicle (EV) charging services. "Hospitality businesses like hotels are excellent sites for EV charging stations, because they are located where people travel and offer multiple desirable amenities for EV drivers," said Hemal Doshi, CEO of Universal Green Group, in a press release. "We have worked with hotels extensively over the last decade installing their solar panels, and our understanding of their business models and operational needs has largely informed our strategy."

4. Sonesta has unveiled what it calls “an experiential meeting space concept.”
This week, Sonesta International Hotels Corporation, one of the fastest-growing hospitality companies in the U.S., unveiled Sonesta Work Suite, a new multi-zone meeting space concept intended to enhance collaboration. Developed based on guest feedback and accommodating up to 50 people, the multi-zone designs offer distinct spaces for working (with seating arrangements that foster brainstorming and head-down work), socializing (with lounge furnishings that encourage relaxation and social connection), and recharging (dedicated dining and refresh spaces).

Interactive, experiential elements include puzzles, brainteasers, stress relief novelties, and other visual enhancements that boost creativity and spark conversations. There are also in-suite food and beverage programs, plus user-friendly tech solutions to enhance collaboration. The meeting spaces, which can be booked by the hour, are currently available at California’s Sonesta Irvine. The concept will expand around the country in the coming year.

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