Hotel companies boost hybrid meeting options

Attendees at global Hilton Worldwide Sales hybrid event, viewing presentation in ballroom at Hilton Mclean Tysons Corner. Photo credit: Hilton (Hilton Worldwide Sales hybrid event)

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect meetings and events normally held at hotels, hotel companies are adjusting with new options for in-person and hybrid functions.

Hilton

Hilton's new EventReady Hybrid Solutions aim to direct event planners to Hilton’s hybrid-ready hotels while also providing them with new planning resources including an expanded Hilton EventReady Playbook.

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Participating hotels will have access to comprehensive team member training resources to build and strengthen their knowledge in hybrid events.

The hybrid solutions will begin rolling out globally this month. The expanded Hybrid Events chapter of the Hilton EventReady Playbook—which will include detailed case studies, pro-tips, a glossary of hybrid event terms and more—will also be available in English this month and accessible to customers working with any hotel within the Hilton global portfolio.

The portfolio of hybrid-ready hotels will spotlight the baseline requirements that customers should expect when hosting a small hybrid event. For example, each hotel will have undergone an evaluation to assess the available IT bandwidth and infrastructure of the hotel to meet the requirements of small hybrid events. To be deemed “hybrid-ready,” hotels are required to have a minimum amount of incremental and available bandwidth that is above and beyond the hotel’s average circuit utilization level. This requirement allows for improved communication and connectivity to optimize the hybrid experience within the hotel while providing easy access for virtual attendees.

Multi-site offering and express agreements incentives will enable customers to book the in-person portion of their event at multiple hybrid-ready Hilton locations.

While the EventReady Playbook is available to customers globally, those looking for in-depth information on planning and executing small hybrid events can access the expanded Hybrid Events chapter, which will continue to evolve alongside customer needs. 

As part of the Hilton EventReady Hybrid Solutions, Encore (formerly PSAV) is offering several event technology packages created for small hybrid events at participating hotels in addition to Presentation Stages, a production-ready event solution equipped with critical broadcast technology and staging equipment that helps elevate event messaging and engagement. Presentation Stages offer a clean and safe pre-built location to produce, record and/or broadcast a high-quality online event far exceeding production values available from the typical home or office. The Hilton properties equipped with event technology will accommodate between two to six onsite presenters and up to 50 in-person attendees. 

Presentation Stages are currently available to book at several properties nationwide and more underway. 

New Normals

This program comes less than a month after Marriott International launched updated health protocol options, including COVID-19 testing, that event organizers can select for group meetings at certain Marriott-branded hotels. 

As noted in December, these protocols build upon initiatives already in place as part of the Connect with Confidence program, meant to help meeting professionals to identify and tailor solutions that best meet the needs of event attendees.

IHG has similarly enhanced its Meet with Confidence program to provide meeting and event organizers with the solutions they need. In the fall, IHG Hotels & Resorts rolled out its Meet with Confidence commitment with a range of cleanliness and safety practices:

  • Clutter-free event spaces configured to allow for social distancing, leveraging outdoor spaces where possible
  • Tables and chairs disinfected before every meeting or event and during breaks  
  • Management of attendee flow with signage and staggered breaks where possible
  • Enhanced food handling and service guidelines 
  • Hand sanitizer stations throughout the meeting and event space
  • Technology solutions to support virtual and hybrid meetings

By the Numbers

While correlation is not causation, the overall meetings and events industry has reported improved numbers in recent months. November U.S. monthly meetings and events volume increased 15 percent from October, according to the latest data from group hospitality analytics firm Knowland, despite the average number of attendees declining from 59 to 45 year over year. This continues the trend from October, when meetings and events volume showed growth of 53.6 percent over September.

Growth was even across all market types during the month. Primary markets grew 15 percent month over month while secondary and tertiary markets grew 15.5 percent. Top growth markets were Fort Worth/Arlington, Texas; Pittsburgh, Phila.; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Corporate meetings produced most of the activity with 60.4 percent of total meetings for the month. “Corporate business remains the driving force behind meetings and events,” said Kristi White, VP of product management at Knowland. “This is good news for hotels since this business can be influenced by hotel salespeople. Despite the holiday, we continued to see growth in the volume of meetings and although 2019 volumes might still be a ways off, meetings are happening and your sales teams should be hunting for them.”

According to Knowland’s 2020 Planner Survey: The State of the Meeting Industry, 76 percent of meeting planner respondents are now rebooking their postponed meetings. Following local safety guidelines and communication of safety protocols were ranked as highest reasons planners could be encouraged to book a facility (78.9 percent and 75.8 percent, respectively).

Perhaps most importantly, 60 percent of respondents cited flexible low-risk hotel contracts as an extremely important requirement for in-person meetings, second only to a vaccine (65.3 percent).