To get a gauge on the industry for 2021 and beyond, Meeting Spotlight spoke with John Williams, president of American Guest, which offers corporate clients tailored incentives, events, meetings, and VIP travel experiences. Williams expects virtual/hybrid meetings to become "king" and also discussed how companies became more supportive of each other.
How has your segment of the industry changed over the last year?
We’ve seen it go from one of complete closure to one of innovation and collaboration. Where companies were once staunch competitors are now supporting one another's growth and success. The world of virtual wasn’t even in the vocabulary or acumen and is now an area of expertise.
Of the strategies you developed last year to adjust to the crisis brought on by COVID, which ones were the most successful?
Remaining engaged, never giving up and reaching out to those who were once untouchable. We decided to make sure that American Guest brand was known to be alive, resourceful, friendly, supportive and creative.
What are some new trends in the industry that you think will have staying power in 2021 and beyond?
There is no doubt virtual is here to stay but it will become a question of balance as we return to normal business operations. I believe we’ll be downloading frequently—like on Netflix—all the virtual events/presentations that will be happening.
What are some ways technology has been helping you through this crisis?
We’ve embraced our opportunities, where we took a different approach and created a telecast for the industry. We have averaged over 6,000 viewers and hit all the markets, including government, association, healthcare, technology, insurance and more. We now have people asking to be part of something not even thought of a year ago. We’ve also seen a new way of doing visits/tours virtually, which decreases costs and increases conversions.
Given the impact of COVID-19 on the MICE industry, which regions of the world do you think will be ready to host meetings in the last quarter of 2021 and first quarter of 2022?
From my view, it’s clear that Las Vegas and Florida are leading the way in returning to business as quickly and safely as possible. Their economies rely 100 percent on the tourism and infrastructure it brings. I envision cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco to be slower to return in comparison.
What is the most valuable thing you learned in 2020 and how will you apply it to your business moving forward?
I learned to not jump on the band wagon and instead took a "wait and see: approach. It was best to learn from others in their successes and challenges and where opportunities existed. Once we had a consensus, we developed a plan and took the risk. As the saying goes “without risk, there is no great reward”.