The hotel industry’s meeting business is finally bouncing back from 9/11, but many hotels could face an uphill battle in wooing back customers unless they appeal to the ultimate gatekeeper - the meeting planner - according to a new study from Maritz Hospitality Research Group
Surveying more than 1,700 meeting planners, the Maritz “2003 Meeting Planner: Choice, Experience, Loyalty Study,” found that establishing a perception of collaborative partnership between the hotel and the planner throughout the various phases of the meeting planning process was critical to securing future business. Additionally, being responsive to the planner’s needs and doing simple things like expressing appreciation for the business during the post-event phase were strongly linked to meeting planner loyalty.
Another finding showed that a significant percentage of meetings do not go exactly as planned. The quality of service a planner received both before and after a problem occurred was a major factor in recovering from these types of challenges. Thirty percent of the surveyed planners reported that a problem occurred during their most recent event. When problems occurred, 40 percent were less likely to return and 63 percent were less likely to recommend the property to other planners.
The study showed that even when problems were fixed, most of the time planners still remained dissatisfied.
“While having a desirable location and competitive pricing are essential for hotels to be considered as a meeting site, planners are clearly looking for a strong and dedicated hotel service staff with whom to partner,” said Rick Garlick, director of consulting and strategic implementation for Maritz Hospitality Research Group, a business unit of Maritz Inc. “If a hotel service staff is willing to work side by side with the planner to help ensure a meeting’s success, that hotel will certainly expand its market share of group business.”
Maritz interviewed more than 1,700 meeting planners in July and August of 2003. Meeting planners were asked a series of questions about how they choose a hotel, their experience while at the hotel and the factors that influence their loyalty to a particular hotel or brand.