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The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, January 2018 … BENCHMARK®, a global hospitality company, announces the "Top Meeting Trends for 2018" as observed by its properties.  Benchmark is a leading U.S.-based global hospitality management company, which operates 70 award-winning hotels, resorts, and conference centers within its Benchmark Resorts & Hotels and Gemstone Collection brands in locations coast to coast, off shore, and internationally.

Trend 1   Entering 2018 Cautiously Optimistic.

The meetings marketplace is cautious nationwide for 2018, but optimistic in major markets like Boston and Los Angeles where demand is strong.  The American business environment and consumer sentiment is encouraging, and the pending tax implications are expected to create a positive effect for meetings throughout 2018 as businesses leverage the opportunities and increasingly invest in their employees.

Trend 2   The New Normal:  Apple TV, Dedicated WiFi, Personalized Apps during meetings, Streaming live!

Need we say, technology is absolutely revolutionizing meetings in 2018, and in ways never before! Properties are being asked to create Apps for a specific meeting on demand during the meeting, to launch live streaming of sessions to remote points so team members outside the conference can participate, to send updedicated WiFi signals for specific meetings or sessions within a meeting, and to provide Apple TV on demand.  It's the new normal!

Trend 3   Locavore Teambuilding.

Despite all the unique teambuilding programs out there that have moved well beyond the ropes courses, trust fall and Outward Bound-like activities, culinary teambuilding initiatives originating out of the hotel's kitchen remain, by far, the most popular coast to coast, the most requested by meeting planners, and the most approachable for meeting groups. What's on the horizon?  Bar Wars, where a team creates its signature cocktail and then samples the recipe.  Cheers!

Trend 4   Fab Food. Lights Up!

What are top priorities with meeting planners going into 2018? Superb, creative, participatory and healthy food options sourced locally and that may include food trucks on property, Iron Chef competitions, customized dining experiences and highly creative refreshment breaks.  After the body is sufficiently and creatively nourished, the mind needs a perfectly lit environment for productive learning, and planners are demanding 21st Century lighting in all rooms—not just the meeting space, complemented wherever possible by Mother Nature’s natural illumination.

Trend 5   What's Shaking in Your Hood? Planners and their guests want to know!

You know what else matters to planners in 2018?  What’s happening in a property's neighborhood—importantly, what the locals recommend as the quirky, under-the-radar highlights of their destination.

Many groups like to get off property for a couple of hours or for an afternoon, and explore the unique aspects of the locale where they are gathering.  So when at Doral Arrowwood in Westchester, New York, treks to nearby Sleepy Hollow are in order-particularly around Halloween.  At Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu's North Shore, groups can catch some rays at Queen Lili’uokalani's private bathing beach, or take surf lessons on some of the world's best waves.  Or at Hotel Contessa in San Antonio, immerse themselves in Texas history at the legendary Alamo a few blocks away. Afterwards they return to the meeting refreshed and invigorated.

Trend 6   Free and Private On-property Experiences.

Complimentary on-site and state-of-the-art recreational amenities providing tangible unique experiences for meeting attendees are another of the Top Requirements requested by meeting professionals in 2018.  Though this may seem obvious, in today’s fitness-crazed world, recreational facilities are expected to include state of the art and challenging fitness options, which are complimentary and readily available to groups around the property—and able to be experienced at guests’ leisure, increasingly 24 hours.

For the first time, “privacy” is a Top Demand from planners coast to coast … and we don’t mean private work-out sessions.  As business becomes increasingly competitive, privacy within meetings and apart from all other groups on property is essential and demanded by planners.

Trend 7   "I'm really busy, just email me."

Professional meeting planners are busier than any previous year with more on their plates and fewer team members to deliver expected results. Though they love personal visits when schedules permit, severe time constraints dictate email communications as their preferred method to stay in touch and learn of opportunities and special promotions.  And yes, you can text too if you know the planning professional well.

Trend 8   Meetings Packages Pack Value.  Planners Demand Value Pricing!

No matter how hot the economy, value is always in vogue and properties best remember this and negotiate accordingly.  How to meet this challenge? Sell value-packed meeting packages (for Benchmark the Benchmark Conference Plan) as meeting planners love packages for their components covering all the basic needs of a meeting, whether a modified package or full-on CMPs.

Value for the meeting dollar never goes out of style. Though the economy is strong and expected to continue its uptick throughout the year, value is in vogue! Why, because new supply is coming online in multiple markets, creating pricing pressure for everyone and planners are using this to negotiate best-value pricing with no hidden costs.

Trend 9   Demand holding on for 2018. Group Size is Static. Two Days and Out.

Meeting demand is healthy nationwide, with select markets looking to exceed last year's numbers and select mature markets falling a bit behind.  The expectation, though, is for demand growth in 2018.  Group size is steady to last year with some planners discussing considerable larger group sizes for meetings later in the year.

Meeting lengths are tightening up, and the average meeting for 2018 is projected to last just 2 days.  Off-shore or remote meetings are longer, given transportation logistics getting to islands or more distant resorts. A lot needs to be accomplished this year in a shorter period of time, making every meeting minute important, including off property and culinary experiences.

Trend 10   Meetings That Matter - Making It Personal

Planners are looking to hotels and resorts to create meeting environments that empower attendees to be introspective, inspire engagement, openness, honesty, transparency and epiphanies that are mutually beneficial to the attendee and their organization. Those properties stepping up let loose with a little whimsy that stimulates joy, spontaneity, appreciation and fun during the meeting experience.

Bonus Trend   Pharma-Healthcare Tops Business Segments for 2018. 

Actually, major pharma is taking a bit of a step back in 2018 as a significant contributing industry to meetings, though when combined with healthcare, the joint segment will still dominate demand for the year.  Education is a close second followed by Financial Services, Associations and Technology.  A bit of a change-up from previous years’ contributing industry segments, so we'll see what the balance of 2018 brings.

About BENCHMARK®, a global hospitality company.

BENCHMARK®, a global hospitality company, is a trailblazer in the development, management, marketing and owner-advisory services of resorts, hotels, conference centers and exclusive private clubs. In addition to the company’s iconic Benchmark Resorts & Hotels  portfolio, the Gemstone Collection is a distinctive luxury portfolio of independent hotels & resorts in highly preferred destinations.  BENCHMARK’S distinguished and proven reputation is deeply-rooted in core values that are focused and aligned with exceeding ownership and stakeholder performance expectations. The combined portfolios feature nearly 70 unique and distinctive properties domestically and internationally. The company leadership and valued employees are passionately committed to delivering the industry’s most authentic, enchanted, soulful, vibrant, unrivaled and memory-making experience.  BENCHMARK’S progressive “Be The Difference” culture and values are a cornerstone to the company’s nearly 40 years of extraordinary achievement and prosperity. Many properties have been recognized with the Benchmark Conference Centers® mark of meeting excellence.  BENCHMARK, a global hospitality company, is based in The Woodlands (Houston), Texas, and has regional offices in Park City, Utah; Miami, Florida; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Seattle Washington; and Tokyo, Japan.   www.benchmarkglobalhospitality.com To become a fan on Facebook, visit www.facebook.com/BenchmarkResortsandHotelswww.facebook.com/GemstoneHotelCollection.  Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BenchmarkHotels, www.twitter.com/GemstoneHotels , on Instagram at www.instagram.com/benchmarkresortsandhotels, www.instagram.com/gemstonehotels, and on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/benchmarkhotels/gemstone-hotels .  At LinkedIn,  https://www.linkedin.com/company/15251771/

Contact: Ken Ellens

KenEllens@aol.com / 201-758-2864

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