Benchmark on trends driving meetings business 

Trends driving meetings and group business are, perhaps, evolving more and are becoming less prescriptive than any segment in a post-pandemic hotel world.

One company deeply immersed in this space is Benchmark Resorts & Hotels, the independent division of Pyramid Global Hospitality, which recently asked more than 60 of its property-level leaders to get their impressions about the trends driving rebounding group business.

Eric Gavin, chief commercial officer of the luxury & lifestyle division of Pyramid Global Hospitality, said there has been a surge in group demand for short-term, last-minute bookings and pace for 2023 looks equally as strong.

He pointed to hybrid and remote workforces generating demand for more regional meetings with shorter booking windows. “We’re leveraging local relationships to show planners the special experiences in their own backyard,” Gavin added.

Benchmark’s leadership identified these five meeting trends that are driving group experiences:

The four walls are dead. With group sizes condensing, smaller events have generated options for alternative meeting set-ups tailored to more intimate experiences. Examples include creating a living room design in a traditional meeting space or moving think tanks to outdoor spaces that inspire more out-of-the-box thinking.

Healthy heads alfresco, and food should be an experience. Vegetarian and vegan cuisine needs are on the rise, according to most portfolio properties polled by Benchmark Resorts & Hotels, with “healthy” a top noted request from planners. Healthy definitions range from raw and dairy free to fresh and locally sourced. Groups are drawn to something outside and memorable such as a tequila tasting that elevates the overall drink experience.

Team bonding is a mix of approachable and adventurous, and often philanthropic. More social gathering time is being built into programs and overscheduling is out, with more free time for attendees and a pull-back to half-day team-building activities. Outdoor experiences are a must and approachability is key so that the activity appeals to the entire group. A strong focus on charitable impact events is another trend playing out, including attendees working together on a community service project like building a playground or repairing community facilities.

No forced connections. Social activations are less prescriptive. Groups are looking for more casual, mobile events where connections can happen organically, and moving away from formal awards dinners and the like. Karaoke is a surprise hit and a growing request because it emphasizes together time that is focused on one another rather than a third-party entertainer. Campfire gatherings are proving to be an organic way to get meeting attendees together.

Hybrid meetings have waned, but onsite tech is still key. While the hybrid work trend continues, Benchmark Resorts & Hotels has noted a clear drop in demand for integrating remote employees into onsite meeting, with an exception for companies with an international base. That said, investment in Wi-Fi bandwidth, audiovisual equipment and guest messaging platforms as well as onsite personnel continues to grow to meet group demands.