Preferred Hotel Group’s Global Group Sales Team Shares Insight and Predictions for the MICE Travel Rebound
New York, New York, March 29, 2022: After a two-year hiatus, the return of key MICE events, such as Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) and IMEX Frankfurt, heralds a new beginning for the segment globally, with major hotel and groups-focused hospitality players preparing to meet again with clients and suppliers from around the world. Led by renowned industry veteran Amy Butterfield, Preferred Hotel Group’s global group sales team will participate in both events to share the latest from the company’s primary consumer brands – Preferred Hotels & Resorts and Beyond Green –including new and expanding hotel partnerships, group travel promotions, and I Prefer Hotel Rewards benefits for planners and buyers. The meetings and events space has changed dramatically since the onset of the pandemic, and because of evolving client expectations, hotels and venues are investing in the latest conference and entertainment technology, hybrid and virtual conferencing resources, and hyper-tailored event programming. As the industry reconvenes, senior members of Preferred Hotel Group’s expert team – Senior Vice President of Group Sales Amy Butterfield, along with Vice President of Global Sales for China, Cheryl Siow, Director of Group Sales for the U.K. & Ireland, Tessa Whalley, and Director of Global Sales for Australia, Andrew Kuek – share insight into regional trends and travel tips for meetings and events-focused hotels in 2022 and beyond.
Are you seeing any green shoots among the MICE travel segments? And if so, where? Are there any surprises?
Cheryl: This year we are really seeing meetings and events move from online back to face-to-face formats and it has been interesting to see more traditional corporations that book hotels for training workshops and incentive travel are now being joined by new energy and mobile gaming industries. Hybrid events and small gatherings are still the preferred choice due to safety and cost-saving benefits, but looking ahead, many large-scale events planned postponed from 2021 will now take place in the latter half of the year due to the current resurgence in COVID cases.
Tessa: We are seeing a lot of demand for MICE properties outside of London and in easy-to-access European destinations such as Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, and the Nordics, particularly for country house resorts in picturesque locations. We are also seeing an increase in inquiries for U.S. favorites like Miami, New York City, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco - transatlantic bookings are bouncing back!
Andrew: Meetings are back in a big way in Australasia, and after a series of lengthy lockdowns, returning tradeshows are getting a lot of attention, starting with Get Local – The Meetings Place which took place last month in Sydney. While the majority of group bookings are domestic, international travel is officially back and overseas groups are cautiously returning. Asian destinations like Singapore have introduced vaccinated lanes for international visitors and Malaysia is set to reopen its borders April 1. Thailand launched a ‘no quarantine Phuket sandbox’ where international arrivals only need to show a negative PCR test. Thailand also offers a test-and-go program for vaccinated travelers who meet entry requirements to visit without lengthy quarantines.
Which destinations are clients getting most excited about for 2022 group travel?
Amy: While we are still seeing the majority of our clients opting for regional destinations, we are seeing some tiptoe out into Europe and Asia. Mexico has been consistently popular - specifically for North American clients who were previously hosting groups in Europe, Asia, and Africa – and all signs point to continued interest in Mexico this year. Looking ahead and into 2023, groups are continuing to opt for resort and coastal destinations over city center hotels, with some sun belt exceptions like Miami, Tampa, Dallas, and Phoenix.
Cheryl: Travel is still largely domestic, with short lead times for local destinations preferred. While we are seeing some international inquiries, from Hong Kong in particular, most corporations with hubs in mainland China continue to book domestic options in the south, where many destinations escaped the worst of the pandemic, with the intent to travel to Japan and Korea in 2023 and 2024. Countries like Thailand, Australia, U.A.E., Singapore, and Malaysia, which had been working with China to create travel bubbles before the rise in cases, will also be popular choices when they launch.
Andrew: Australians are most interested in traveling to the United States, including Hawaii, as well as Dubai, London, and Italy. New Zealand will also be a lead destination when the country reopens to Australia on April 17. In the wider ASPAC region, there is a wait and see approach as travel restrictions slowly unwind, but destinations in Western Europe and the United States are among the most popular inquiries.
Any tips for hotels seeking to increase meetings revenue in 2022 and beyond?
Amy: Just like all of us in the business, our clients are doing more with less. Many of our clients are operating back-to-back programs due to postponements in 2020 and 2021, creating compression in an already busy 2022. My advice to hoteliers is simple – be easy to work with! Quick responses, fair terms and an abundance of flexibility are top factors in the decision process. Hotels with usable outdoor space and open-air experiences should showcase and integrate them into MICE programming.
Cheryl: MICE hotels should continue to be flexible with buyers, offering free cancellation for bookings and extending the cancellation window wherever possible. Flexibility also needs to extend to pricing. Corporate travel buyers are still prudent on costs, so hoteliers should be prepared for more rounds of negotiation to connect with their national tourism board or convention bureau for support. Inquiries for newly reinstated annual events are expected to flow from late summer when planners will be keen to secure space while available.
Andrew: COVID is still with us, so clients are scrutinizing the force majeure clause in contracts. Hotels have to be flexible. To avoid cancellations, they can offer the option to postpone, carrying the deposit forward that helps both parties. Buyouts are increasingly popular for small scale meetings and executive retreats and are expected to remain a top choice in the coming years.
What are your expectations for this year's GMID or IMEX Frankfurt?
Amy: We expect this year will be exciting! IMEX America at the end of 2021 was a reunion – a homecoming for our industry with lots of smiles, empathy, and new memories made. I expect GMID 2022 to be a busy, vibrant day that preludes a celebratory IMEX Frankfurt! American buyers are delighted to be traveling within Europe again are confident of a wonderful comeback show after almost three years.
Tessa: IMEX Frankfurt is bound to be memorable this year, so many of our industry friends and clients plan to attend, and I am personally excited to discuss the latest MICE offerings from Preferred’s fabulous member hotels and connect with new and existing clients!
Andrew: I am hopeful that attendance will be back to pre-pandemic levels, as it would be great to see all of our clients and colleagues from around the world. These events are also enormously beneficial to regroup, refocus, and reenergize as an industry, sharing best practices to help move our segment forward after a really challenging time.
Preferred’s Global Group Sales team will be active across their territories in major markets in the run up to GMID (April 7) and IMEX Frankfurt (May 31 – June 2) and are looking forward to networking, together as an industry, and some face time with clients. Visitors to IMEX Frankfurt can make an appointment through the event website to discuss tailored solutions at more than 650 best-in-class independent properties worldwide focused on meetings and incentive travel experiences. For more information loyalty benefits for meetings and events planners, visit I Prefer Planner.
About Preferred Hotel Group
Owned and operated by the Ueberroth Family, Preferred Hotel Group is the parent company of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, Beyond Green, Historic Hotels of America, Historic Hotels Worldwide, PHG Consulting, and Beyond Green Travel, representing more than 1,100 hotels, resorts, and residences across 80 countries, in addition to a global portfolio of destinations such as Suzhou, China; Guadalajara, Mexico; and Honduras. With more than 275 seasoned travel professionals situated across 20 countries, the company connects independent hotels, hospitality companies, destinations, and tourism bureaus to key markets worldwide through a variety of strategic branding, sales, integrated marketing, revenue management, and comprehensive distribution services, along with other consultancy services. Fuelled by its brand promise, Believe in Travel, the company champions an unwavering belief in the transformative power of travel and its ability to enrich people’s lives, inspire a greater respect for the Earth, and expand hearts and minds to other cultures and ways of living. For more information on Preferred Hotel Group’s entities, please visit PreferredHotels.com, StayBeyondGreen.com, BeyondGreenTravel.com, HistoricHotels.org, and PHGConsulting.com.