Hoping to build on the record numbers posted last year throughout the meetings and events industry, hotels, resorts and convention centers are striving to set themselves apart to make planners’ jobs easier and offer attendees unforgettable experiences. Marriott Convention & Resort Network, which features more than 60 properties across five brands, has come up with five meeting solutions sure to make 2016 better than ever.
Marriott Convention & Resort Network includes meeting venues under the JW Marriott, Autograph Collection Hotels, Renaissance Hotels, Marriott Hotels and Gaylord Hotels flags. Combined, the properties offer more than 6.7 million sq. ft. of event space and 62,000 guest rooms. Here’s a look at meeting solutions and a few examples where trends are already being implemented.
Mental Wellness for Planners and Attendees
Being skilled at stress management is nearly a job requirement for meeting planners whose field is consistently ranked as one of the most stress-filled careers. Yoga and meditation-type activities have proven to be great ways to relax and distress. But new ways to reduce stress and promote well-being include scheduled breaks for power naps and serving up healthy brain-boosting snacks and juices.
Some hotels and resorts are becoming more inventive. For example, Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa offers attendees friendly, competitive activities such as beach Olympics and Survivor participation events. Yoga on stand-up paddleboards has become very popular at Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort in St. Thomas.
Mobile Tools Essential for Planners
Marriott knows that apps have become a critical way for planners to maintain constant communications with attendees before, during and after events. The Marriott Meeting Services App allows meeting planners and hotel teams to communicate directly.
When Marriott recently held its own “Americas Meeting” at JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa, the company’s 700 attendees relied on the Bonfyre app to enhance communications during before and during the four-day conference.
“In 2016, you can virtually have a paper-free, information-rich meeting or event all by using a smartphone or tablet,” says Michael O’Connor, director of event management at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville.
Elevate Beverage Experiences
According to a survey of Marriott Network members, 69 percent of hotels and resorts reported that meeting planners are upgrading food and drinks at their events. Marriott believes that some of the most dynamic hospitality positions today are beverage directors.
Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, reports that beverage trends include moonshine bars, cocktails on tap, customizable cocktails for groups and bourbon bar food pairings. A popular pairing has become a small plate of pork belly with a blackberry glaze accompanied by a bourbon cocktail shooter.
The Wow Factor
One of the biggest factors coming up on check lists is ceiling heights needed to accommodate big projection screens, special lighting, video mapping and stages designed to wow attendees. For this reason, Marriott’s new large convention hotels have designed their ballrooms with this in mind.
Ceiling heights of 20 feet or more are found in the newly opened Marriott Marquis Washington, DC and JW Marriott Austin. Marriott Marquis Houston, Marriott Marquis Chicago and the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center are under construction and will taking this trend into consideration.
Immersive Meeting Solutions
There’s a big movement to provide attendees with experiences that embody the destination in which an event is being held. The Marriott Network properties are helping arrange everything from a recorded wake-up call by the CEO to food trucks for the mid-afternoon refreshment break to fireworks during evening receptions.
“We send off our group guests to their dinner locations with a real-life Mardi Gras parade with beads and Jester hats and hurricane cocktails in their hands,” says Branko Bahat, director of event management at New Orleans Marriott. “A high school marching band leads the way with shiny decorated Mardi Gras floats. They parade down the street in awe of the spectacle.”
Marriott Convention & Resort Network was designed to develop and promote meeting solutions. With more than 60 properties coming together to research and share success stories, the spotlight on meeting solutions is brighter than ever.