317 | Together Again: U.S. hotel industry begins to see return of small meetings

Lodging Leaders show

Summary: <br> {caption}NEW MEETING MIXER: The hotel industry is seeing small meetings begin their return, with most planners booking for the second half of 2021. More planners are organizing hybrid events that feature live streaming of in-person events to attendees that cannot or do not want to travel or meet face-to-face in the age of COVID-19.{/caption}<br> Corporate business makes up majority of events, say experts who anticipate an unleashing of pent-up demand <br> s public health agencies expand COVID-19 vaccination programs across the U.S. and states ease up on public-gathering restrictions designed to keep the virus at bay, the hotel industry is seeing small meetings begin a comeback.<br> On March 10, Knowland reported meetings in the U.S. increased 110 percent from January to February.<br> That’s a significant uptick, even though the first month of the year typically sees the fewest meetings, said <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristilwhite/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Kristi White</a>, vice president of product management at <a href="https://www.knowland.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Knowland</a>.<br> “January is always a little bit slower of a month, but this was a significant pickup,” White said. “It’s the biggest pickup we’ve seen month over month since the very beginning of tracking it back at the beginning of the summer.”<br> That’s when Knowland noticed markets closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak began to reopen. “That brought some different volume back in,” White said, adding meetings “are not coming back in dribs and drabs. They came roaring back.”<br> “It was almost as if companies knew that meetings were going to be allowed the next week, and they all called and booked a meeting,” she said. “There wasn’t that sense of hesitancy.”<br> <br> {caption}TOGETHER AGAIN: The U.S. hotel industry is beginning to see a comeback in small meetings more than a year after the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to public gatherings. Episode 317 of Lodging Leaders podcast explores the state of the small meeting sector and how hotels can grab their share of the market resurgence.{/caption}<br> Knowland’s report also noted that in February the average number of meeting attendees was 39. It was the same number reported in February 2020.<br> Thirty-nine people makes for a small meeting, but that’s not unusual in the meeting-planning world.<br> White said it’s a “fallacy” that most meetings are large conventions when, in fact, the majority of meetings in the U.S. are small.<br> “Sixty percent of the meetings that occur fall under the 100-person mark,” she said.<br> “The vast majority of meetings that are physically occurring aren’t the behemoths that we’re all thinking about. They’re in that smaller space. The behemoth meetings, the ones above 500 people, actually make up less than 4 percent of the meetings in the United States.”<br> <br> {caption}MEETINGS BUSINESS: Knowland’s latest report shows corporate meetings account for the majority of small meetings booked in February. Kristi White, vice president of product management at the analytics company, said this is a sign that pent-up demand for meetings is beginning to unleash and hotels should start to promote their spaces.{/caption}<br> With regard to the event space, Knowland noted that in February meetings’ square footage increased year over year, largely because of social distancing protocols created during the coronavirus pandemic.<br> Though, most meetings in 2020 were leisure-driven and included events such as weddings and family reunions, Knowland reported that in February corporate business accounted for nearly 62 percent of meetings.<br> White said although the term “revenge travel” usually refers to leisure bookings, she believes businesses are part of the pent-up demand hotel-industry forecasters expect to be unleashed in the last half of this year.<br>