Kari Hardy, CTA, group operations and coordinator, World of Travel, tells Meeting Spotlight that companies are looking to incorporate as much time for “fun” as possible throughout their programs. In addition, as part of our ongoing “Buyer Q&A” series, she shares her approach towards the challenges that are still troubling venues, hotels and restaurants.
What are some trends in the meeting and incentive industry that you have seen in recent months? Do you think these trends will last? How are you adjusting to those trends?
The old adage “Work Hard, Play Hard” is really having a big moment right now. We’ve found that our partners will knock out their “business” as early in the program and as quickly as possible (while still meeting their needed requirements) to make sure their guests can maximize their “fun” time. We work with our suppliers and vendors to get whatever our partners need for a successful experience: DYI Donut Wall at the welcome reception? Done. Poker Tournament on the beach? Got it. Sunset Catamaran Sail and Snorkel as a team building activity? Sounds good! After the past couple of years, companies are really starting to value and recognize their exceptional employees and want to reward them in a way that proves it.
How are you structuring your meeting strategy moving forward in terms of virtual events vs. in person events? Are hybrid events here to stay?
We have been lucky enough to have all of our meeting partners come back to in-person events. I actually just returned from two back-to-back meetings in Puerto Rico and Curaçao! We’ve found that while virtual meetings are definitely here to stay on a weekly/bi-weekly/monthly schedule due to convenience and low cost, companies are also planning at least one big destination program and placing significant importance on the social and mental needs to see and spend time with each other.
As the global hospitality industry bounces back, there are lasting impacts including hiring challenges, closures within destinations and service-level changes. Are these challenges still affecting your sourcing needs? If so, how are you handling this with your teams?
We’ve had to adapt, like everyone else, to the changes in our industry and (luckily) have only experienced a handful of issues. We totally understand that RPF’s may take a few extra days or that an event space has an updated capacity guideline or restaurants and activities may only be open during certain times or days. As long as the supplier is upfront and honest, I will wait two weeks for a quote. However, if I don’t receive a courtesy reply to an email or call after a day or two—just a “Thanks for your message – Your request has been received and you will receive a reply within seven days”-type of thing—I’m going to assume you’re not interested and I will move forward with another supplier. And I will always show that same courtesy to a supplier; R-E-S-P-E-C-T my time and I will 1,000 percent reciprocate.
Do you foresee your event budget increasing or decreasing moving forward?
Continued increases over the next couple of years (maybe 10 to 20 percent each year), then a new baseline reflective of those increases. Currently, I think a lot of companies have higher budgets for meeting and incentive programs just due to the fact that they couldn’t use that money for 18-plus months. We’ve had a few partners who increased their budgets in 2022 and 2023 by 20 to 25 percent just because they had those funds available.
What are the top three most important elements you look for when securing a supplier or venue?
- Venues and meeting/event spaces that align with our partners’ needs (allotments, budget, benefits).
- Unique experiences, whether it’s the destination itself or exciting tours, activities or dining options.
- Cancelation and attrition policies. Even though the industry has had a decent rebound, we will still always make sure we (and our partners) are covered in the event of another global issue.