YPBR’s Research on Meeting Planners Finds Optimism But Rising Expectations

RENEE DIIULIO, SENIOR EDITOR
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Orlando, FL – Meeting planners expect to host more meetings in the next 12 months than in the previous year, according to new research by Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell, a national advertising, marketing, research and pr firm that specializes in business and leisure travel. “However, there is a longer lead time than expected and venues should not expect to fill rooms immediately,” says Gary Sain, Chief Marketing Officer and Partner of YPBR and a veteran of the trade show and meeting industry.

Survey respondents reported an average lead time of 9.5 months. Corporate planners decide in less time (7.5 months) than association planners (11.5 months).

The YPBR Portrait of North American Meeting Planners was released November 2. It details the decision-making factors and preferences of both corporate and association meeting planners. Designed to help guide the marketing efforts of those serving this industry, the report offers a wealth of information, including spending patterns, destination preferences and media usage. Meeting planners themselves can benefit from the research as a benchmark to determine if they are in sync with their peers.

Planners Expect More Meetings

The in-depth resource reveals other of significant findings, including an optimistic outlook, notes Sain.

Of the 904 meeting planners surveyed, 23% of corporate planners and 16% of association planners said they expect to hold more meetings in the next 12 months, while only 8% of corporate planners and 5% of association planners expect to hold fewer meetings. Sain attributes this to the improved economic outlook and the corresponding need for professionals in any industry to meet face to face as the economy improves.

As a group, these planners averaged 14 domestic and 9 international meetings over the past 12 months. Although the number of attendees ranged from less than 100 to more than 1,000, the majority of meetings, or 71%, hosted fewer than 200 people.

Attendees Demand More From Meetings

The report also looked at the mindset of meeting planners and found that although pricing is still critically important, their greatest concern is making the meeting agenda relevant.

“This is a wonderful insight. Meeting planners did not list cost or accessibility as their top concern but rather responding to the rising expectations of attendees. The supplier who can help them achieve this will find they have a marketing edge,” says Sain.

More than two-thirds, or 79%, feel that attendees have higher expectations. A similar number, 76%, believe that today’s attendee is generally more focused on the business taking place at a meeting rather than leisure activities. “Attendees want to maximize their time, focusing on the real issues/topics of the meeting and less time on extracurricular activities. Attendees want to do their business and get back to their families,” says Sain.

Room Rates and Food Are Top Cost Concerns

However, when asked about economic concerns, planners are still cost-conscious, with the room rates and food and entertainment expenses in the number one and two spots respectively.

Roughly half of the respondents state they expect to book rooms that range in cost between $100 and $200. “Unless a hotel or resort can offer significant value to justify the cost, planners are very concerned about managing the hotel cost at a percentage of the overall expenditure for the meeting,” says Sain.

Respondents also report that over the past three years, they have sought to control costs with shorter days, smaller budgets for parties and receptions, reduced food expenses and the replacement of one large meeting with several smaller ones.

Planners Prefer to Deal Directly

Meeting planners, however, do not base their decisions on cost alone, citing convenience of the location and transportation from the airport as additional top factors.

And they prefer to gather their information directly. Over half, 52%, use the Internet to visit the sites of individual hotels and venues, and 84% prefer to deal directly with the facility’s sales office rather than a third party, such as a convention and visitors bureau.

Site inspections are invaluable to this process. “Site inspections are the most highly sought after and credible form for gathering information to make a decision,” says Sain.

Methodology

YPBR partnered with Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts, the David Green Organization, Host Marriott, Intercontinental Hotels and Resorts, the International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus (IACVB) and STSN to produce the report. The YPBR Portrait of North American Meeting Planners is available from YPBR for $950.

Reach Gary Sain, Chief Marketing Officer and Partner, Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell (YPBR), at (407) 875-1111 or gary_sain@ypbr.com.

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