Anniversaries and audits

 

In a year of significant anniversaries: Montreal’s 375th, Canada 150th, and  the 65th mit-coveryear of The Queen’s reign. I have my own small anniversary.

This year I begin my 25th year writing about the meeting and incentive industry. My first article, a summary of Maritime meeting venues and ideas, appeared in the September 1992 issue of Meetings & Incentive Travel magazine. Since then I have written over 300 articles for M&IT.

Twenty years ago I began contributing to The Meeting Professional published by Meeting Professionals International. I also contributed to One+, which was The Meeting Professional under a different name.

For the last 13 years I have covered Eastern Canada for Association News.

association-news-cover-1I’ve written over 500 articles about places, people, ideas and industry trends. I enjoy the industry’s creativity and inventiveness.

My research has had me crisscross North America, travel extensively in Europe, and venture as far as South Africa, Hong Kong, China and India. I’ve done over 1,200 site inspections of hotels, convention centres and off-site venues in 85 cities in 27 countries.

My work has appeared in: Meetings & Incentive Travel (Toronto), Meetings Incentives International (Toronto), Corporate Travel (Toronto), ignite (Toronto), Association News (Los Angeles), The Meeting Professional / One + (Dallas), Sports Travel (Los Angeles), Executive Traveler (US), Golf Event (US), Incentives & Meetings International (US), Motivation Strategies (US), Meetings and Conventions ((US) and Progress (Halifax). I have also provided custom content for VisitBritain, Atout France, Destination Halifax, Scottsdale, mpi-coverNewfoundland Tourism and Caesar’s Entertainment.

The interviews and travels with planners, partners and suppliers are supplemented by background fact-checking of websites.

It is astonishing that static details about a property or a venue are so often inconsistent, inaccurate and/or lacking sellable details. Planners and incentive house reps have long complained about this and my on-line research leads me to share their frustration.

For example, for back-to-back assignments in November/December 2015 I visited 128 websites belonging to hotels, destinations, convention centres and off-site venues. Only 11 had information I could confirm or find. Year-after-year these on-line problems persist.

executive-traveler-coverFor this research a destination’s marketing organization (DMO) supplied a capacity chart for the city’s major hotels (room count, meeting space summary). One 200-room hotel showed 0 meeting space. I knew that wasn’t right. I contacted the hotel. My contact confirmed that they had 2,700 sq. ft. of meeting space. I later found a meetings page for this property which said they had 5,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Another web page listed capacity at 4,000 sq. ft., yet adding up the individual room capacities listed on their meeting room inventory showed 4,377 sq. ft. of meeting space. They variously are said to have five and seven meeting rooms. The following year, the same DMO’s capacity chart didn’t list this property because the destination still believes the hotel doesn’t have meeting space. And neither the hotel or marketing people notice!

Another property’s website says it has six meeting rooms and 9,000 sq. ft. of space. However, theirsports-travel-cover capacity chart lists seven rooms totaling 12,399 sq. ft. of meeting space. Another list says this property has 11,000 sq. ft. of space spread over five rooms. Web pages for a third city property show its meeting capacity ranges from 20,000, 21,631, 21,742, 22,000 to 28,000 sq. ft.!

These inconsistent numbers are only part of the problems with property, destination and supplier websites.

Meeting planners and incentive house reps constantly complain about the quality of information potential suppliers provide. It makes their work harder. Often planners are working in the evening, on a weekend or during a long layover to pull together a client proposal. They don’t have the opportunity to contact a property or destination to confirm facts. And, since they often only need one or two numbers, they don’t want to waste their time making the call and engaging in the usual niceties of a business conversation. Consequently, destinations and properties are dropped from consideration.

golf-how-to-guide-coverPlanners have said to me, “If you don’t know how big you are, what other details will you get wrong?”

The comic strip Pogo famously said, “We have seen the enemy and he is us.”

Based on industry frustrations I have conducted web audits for hotels and suppliers to ensure their facts are uniform, accurate and presented in a meaningful way for clients.

The good news is that the fix doesn’t generally scottsdale-coverinvolve rebuilding a website, it’s about working with in-house tech experts and sales to hone the content. It is simple, quick and inexpensive. For first contact, write: nscelt@hotmail.com. Put “audit” in the subject line.

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Websites are missing the meetings market

Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhhhhh!!!!

I have just completed two, extensive back-to-back group meeting assignments. This is my 10th year for this title. Between the two assignments, I visited 128 websites for fact checking. About 11 had the information I required. Year after year after year I encounter the same problems and issues with property, venue and destination websites when it comes to servicing the meetings market. My frustrations with website content are echoed by professional meeting planners.

People, stop wasting your money and potential clients’ time. Hotels, resorts, meeting venues and destinations claim to understand the client. No doubt you do on a face-to-face basis, but your websites and on-line presence fails you and your potential clients.

With potential planners researching websites 24/7, bad information, missing information and poorly presented information can cost you money. Whether you’re an event venue, a hotel or a destination, you’re not the only game in town. The world is on-line so everyone is your competition. You have more to worry about than the property down the street, tho’ if that property has a sharper website and on-line presence they’re beating you by making it unnecessary for the client to wait around for pertinent and accurate details from and about you.

And this is a problem for multinational brands as well as solo properties.

The current fashion is to tell stories. But what if you haven’t told it in the right way to engage the targeted market? Since most managers aren’t storytellers, you may be missing the more interesting story or story angle.

What needs to be done to make you competitive isn’t rocket science. Usually a few hours, maybe a day, and you’re ready to roll.

Having spent money for an on-line presence doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve gotten it right. Most companies hire a webmaster or an agency to build a site for them. These people have a talent for technology and marketing. They know how to deliver your message through various on-line options. However, they don’t necessarily know your business or the client needs. They may ask you questions, but if they get casual or sketchy information that’s all they can work with. Then they, on your behalf, make the mistake of perpetually supplying insufficient information to the market you’re trying to sell.

Having slogged through thousands of websites it’s apparent that what happens is that the person building the site uses what others have put on their sites as a guide, thus the information gaps spread to become an industry standard.

Enough with the madness! Hire someone (yes, like me) who understands what your group clients want and need to know if they are to consider your property, venue or destination as a place to bring business.

This is a relatively easy fix. It usually doesn’t require redesigning a website. It’s about correct content, presented in an easy-to-follow way. Between my time and your webmaster’s it’s probably less than a day’s work. Can you afford not to re-examine your site and message?

 

 

Canada’s $29-billion meetings sector

Jasper Park Lodge - a popular Rocky Mountain destination for meetings and incentives.

Jasper Park Lodge – a popular Rocky Mountain destination for meetings and incentives.

Canada’s meetings and incentive sector is an industry worth $29.1 billion a year according to a study by Meeting Professionals International. If you add in the cost of travel and accommodations it is worth tens of billions more. Are you, your partners and destination ready for it? Are you getting your share of this steady, lucrative, growing and competitive sector?

It is such a growing and competitive sector that Middle Eastern countries have recognized the opportunities presented by the meetings, events and incentive sector. Brands like Four Seasons, Marriott, Fairmont, Kempinski, Ramada, Hilton and others are making substantial investments there. For example, in May 2014 Starwood announced they will build 35 more hotels in the Middle East in the next three years.

Saudi Arabia, which earned $14.9 billion from tourism in 2012, believes hospitality will become the largest employer in kingdom. To reach this objective, Saudi Arabia formed the Saudi Exhibition and Convention Bureau in December 2013. Dubai followed with the establishment of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing in January. French-owned Accor hotels have opened a hospitality training school in Saudi Arabia as part of this aggressive new travel and tourism thrust.

And industries are responding. For example, the Dubai Air Show generated $162.6 billion in sales within five days, and the 2013 World Travel and Tourism Council’s Global Summit in Dubai drew the most delegates ever (1,000) and had Bill Clinton as a keynote speaker. The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia draws over 100 companies from 24 countries. The Middle East is a sleeping giant waking up to the economic value of travel, tourism and meetings.

With this type of competition Western destinations have to rethink and prepare for an extremely well-financed new competitor. It’s not enough to have facilities, it’s knowing how to work them, how to present them, how to pair them with partners and suppliers to make them work for planners, incentive houses and their clients that inks the deal.

I have attended conferences and trade shows, participated in fam trips and

Montreal's international fireworks competition brings a bang to meetings and incentives.

Montreal’s international fireworks competition brings a bang to meetings and incentives.

conducted site inspections in: various islands in the Caribbean, South Africa, China, Hong Kong, Portugal, Spain, Germany, France, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, parts of the United States and all across Canada. I have interviewed planners, incentive house reps, destination and facilities executives, suppliers and sales directors. I know your customers and competition. I can help with your messaging, presentation and pitches. Keep reading.