2nd-Tier CVBs Could Become 1st-Choice & Other Developments

When scanning incoming business emails last Saturday morning, I stumbled upon the 2024 State of the Meetings Industry Report, now in its fourth year. Published by Knowland, an events industry sales intelligence provider, and in partnership with Conference Direct, a global meetings solution company, the purpose of the survey is to “provide hotel and venue operators insight into the challenges, expectations, and preferences of meeting planners as they work to grow their group business in 2024.” The gathered data was based on the collected responses of 326 meeting and event planners, 63 percent of whom were from associations, and 31 percent represented corporations. The rest were from governmental and SMERF groups. 

Overall, the study states, “planners are optimistic about 2024, with almost half expecting to book more meetings in 2024 than in 2023. With that, however, is the added pressure of delivering high-quality events and game-changing attendee experiences while staying within budget. Well, that’s always been the case, hasn’t it? Yes, but the outlook is a little different now, and rising costs – combined with less experienced hotel staff, post-COVID – are changing how and where planners book, resulting in: 

One, smaller events; two, modified experiences; and three, most importantly, a move towards secondary markets, meaning secondary destinations. All this places second-tier CVBs in a new light with meeting and event planners.

At this point, I stopped “scanning” and settled in to review Knowland’s annual report more clearly. It was time well spent. Turns out respondents were extremely dissatisfied with selected meeting-style hotels due to their high costs in first-tier cities and, because of that, meeting and event planners of all types are now reconsidering the host destination; that is, planners are “revisiting” second-tier destinations (and even third-tier in some cases) in order to combat the higher cost of just about everything in the first-tier cities, starting this year. 

This is key, for instance, some planners may want to stay within a selected meeting-style hotel chain like Sheraton or Hyatt, but realize they can benefit the company budget by selecting one of its member hotels located in a second-tier city where costs are lower – rather than selecting one in a first-tier destination where costs are often much higher. Again, all this places second-tier cities or CVBs in the limelight for 2024 and beyond.

Here are three key excerpts of the annual report: 

1-Secondary markets (2nd-tier CVBs) provide an opportunity for lower prices and high-quality experience – Organizers may consider changing destinations and venues to manage meeting costs. Groups are more likely to relocate events to alternative markets to maintain event quality and avoid moving down in chain scale. This shift presents opportunities for secondary and even tertiary markets to attract new business by offering quality products, services, and attractive pricing alternatives compared with the top 25 market destinations.

2-High price is a key challenge for planners – While planners are more satisfied with the responsiveness of venues, pricing continues to be an issue with 47 percent of them. The rise in F&B and AV prices of up to 50 percent is a game changer for event design and production. Decision-makers are leaning into their planners and intermediaries to aid in finding ways to do more within their budgets (and, often, second-tier is the way to go).

3-Hotel responsiveness has improved, but staffing levels and experience continue to plague events – Satisfaction with hotel responsiveness is up 100 percent compared to last year; however, planners are still impacted by staffing and experience levels at hotels. Hotel cluster sales models are cited as driving slower responses, and inexperience is causing longer contract periods. Planners point out that the lack of knowledge by both sales and operations staff causes them to work harder.

More than that, according to Knowland CEO Jeff Bzdawka, “Our industry is currently undergoing a reset, requiring an alignment of expectations with costs on both sides. It’s clear from this year’s survey that to unlock our growth potential, we need to work to apply our passion and solve these challenges, together.” Appropriately, the second-tier market offers great opportunities to save without forfeiting the quality planners expect.

Conference Direct’s CMO Larry Hanson, added: “Even still, hoteliers will need to balance the scales between profitability and service standards to encourage and re-build sustainable relationships with meeting planners.”

The 2024 annual study reveals a lot of stimulating information and even a few surprises pertaining to the successful crafting of results-oriented meetings between planners and their partners. Planners can check out the full report at www.knowlton.com. The year 2024 has ushered in quite an exciting shift in the meeting planning industry.

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