Hybrid Meetings Impact on Group Business
Who could have predicted a year ago that Zoom would be a major disruptive influence in the Meetings Industry? Years of speculation about the threat to hotels from videoconferencing was much ado about nothing until the Pandemic. Now, conventional wisdom suggests that Hybrid Groups, which combine teleconferencing with person-to-person meetings, will be prevalent for the foreseeable future and a permanent part of the new normal.
NEW PARADIGM, NEW CHALLENGES
The same forces (perceived cost savings, enhanced convenience, health concerns) that have exalted the benefits of working from home also wreak havoc on in-person event attendance. Consider these additional challenges for the meetings industry:
- The new criteria for business and event related travel now includes health related risks, complicating the decision to approve conference attendance.
- The uncertainty of blocking function space without being able to confidently predict virtual attendance vs. live attendance will require a new approach from both hotels and meetings professionals.
- The extra space now necessary to accommodate social distancing in both meeting and dining venues will dilute food and beverage revenues for hotels as a result of less guests in the restaurants, reduced banquet covers and the elimination of receptions, creating mounting pressure for hotels to recover lost profitability through innovation and price increases.
On the other hand, thousands of new attendees are being introduced to the world of conference participation online that will both enthuse and prepare them to attend those same events in person in the future. And it is possible that hybrid meetings may serve as a temporary transitional solution and will not create a negative financial impact after the crisis subsides. In the short term, however, potential group revenue derived from rooms, F&B and ancillary spending will be suppressed until the Pandemic is behind us.
Ironically, the ability to provide the tech services required for a hybrid event presents a new opportunity for hotels to differentiate themselves from the competition. The scope and complexity of hybrid meetings production is vast and pricing strategies will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
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