As the largest operator of independent hotels and resorts in North America, Destination asked an experienced group of corporate, association, government and independent planners - 55 percent of whom control more than $100,000 per year in direct meeting spend for their organizations—about how their planning duties and their meetings themselves are changing. These changes stem from general macroeconomic trends, the continued strength of the hospitality industry in particular, attendees’ evolving needs and preferences, advancing technology, and other factors. Here is a summary of the survey results, plus front-line analysis. Meeting Budgets Continue to Rise 37 percent of respondents said that their 2015 meeting budgets would increase, while another 51 percent said their budgets would remain the same and just 12 percent said budgets would decrease, a notable and all around positive shift from 2014. Another encouraging indicator is that planners said their organizations will conduct more meetings in 2015 than in 2014, while 65 percent said they will hold the same number. Because the percentage of planners with increasing budgets is higher than the percentage who indicated that they will coordinate more meetings, it is evident that many organizations are willing to spend more per meeting in 2015. Specifically, Destination Hotels has already seen a resurgence in the food and beverage space and predicts this will be an area where groups will once again choose to invest in dinners and special events with quality options. Booking Patterns Have Shifted; Planners Must Negotiate Differently to Stay on Budget Survey results indicate that overall, meetings are shifting away from the middle ground—the two- to six-month window and will now focus on the under 60 days and six to 12 month booking windows. Planners also indicated that groups are getting back to using the spa and playing golf, a definite shift from recent years. This means that groups will commit more dollars to on-site social events and recreation in exchange for lower room rates. Destination Hotels see this as a benefit for all parties. Factors in Selecting a Host Property: One Surprising Shift Geographic location and room rate continue to be the most important factors to planners when selecting a host property but for the first time in Destination Hotels' annual survey of planners, food and beverage options rated third in importance. Destination Hotels recognizes the importance of high-quality culinary experiences as these are often used for networking and connection objectives. For example, the hotels have transitioned to offering seasonal menus to ensure the freshest ingredients are served that highlight the property's location. Destination Hotels is also tailoring menus to meet a variety of dietary restrictions including vegan and vegetarian items plus alternatives for guests who need to avoid nuts, gluten, tomato, bell pepper, and other items. Supplier-Provided Technology: Critical Within a Meeting, and Critical to Planners before a Meeting Too Sufficient bandwidth for high-speed wired and wireless connectivity to the internet, as well as a rising demand for large LCD panels to display constantly-scrolling social-media feeds in break areas at meetings are two areas that planners noted of importance in the survey. However, another item that is not yet part of a standard meetings-tech package—but which might be soon—is the mobile-device charging station. Destination Hotels, recognizing the need to eliminate power cords, recently introduced portable charging stations which does not require devices to be plugged in at all. These battery-powered towers can be placed in common spaces, or directly in meeting rooms. Teambuilding Takes on a Local Flavor Active, adventure and wellness-focused teambuilding activities ranked high in meeting planners' interests for 2015 and Destination Hotels' emphasis on bringing authentically immersed experiences into meetings meshes perfectly with these preferences. At Destination Hotels, attendees can experience scenic walking trails, take part in GPS-aided scavenger hunts, kayak into secluded coves or rollerblade on an oceanfront boardwalk, among a plethora of other activities. Whichever Destination Hotels property planners choose, an endless list of unscripted discoveries and locally-inspired options are available. Download the complete white paper at Destination Hotels