The Top Meeting and Events Trends and Priorities for 2024

Meeting planners and hoteliers alike are optimistic about the meetings and events space for the year ahead, prioritizing innovation to provide memorable experiences to attendees. With a portfolio of more than 30 brands, Marriott International continues to evolve its meetings and events offerings to meet the evolving needs of planners and attendees. Recently, Julius Robinson, Marriott International’s chief sales and marketing officer, U.S. and Canada, spoke about the top meetings and events trends and priorities that will shape the hospitality industry in 2024.

Non-Traditional Venues and Local Influences

“Our teams have received increasing requests for nontraditional venues, outdoor setups and reimagined creative spaces,” says Robinson. He noted at Muir, Autograph Collection, an oceanfront property in Halifax, Canada, planners can book meeting spaces with 360-degree water views or rent the hotel’s 36-foot private yacht. W Philadelphia, which offers more than 45,000 square feet of meeting spaces, he adds, has hosted several corporate and social events utilizing the property’s larger suites and creative spaces such as the Wet Deck bar and terrace overlooking downtown Philadelphia.

Robinson adds that “we’ve seen a perspective shift in the way hotels view their meetings and events offerings, prioritizing unique spaces and cultural traditions to provide a memorable experience for attendees.” For instance, at Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, attendees can connect with water—and with each other—through an ʻauʻaukai ceremony. The ceremony incorporates practices of purification via ocean water, “helping attendees emerge with a clearer focus on mutual goals.” Alternatively, the newly renovated Westin Washington, DC Downtown offers a collection of meeting spaces with floor-to-ceiling windows and direct access to the Anthem Row promenade.

Large Meetings, Networking Make a Comeback

JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort
JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort (Photo by Marriott International)

“Small and medium-sized companies have been leading recovery in group demand since the pandemic, but this year, it’s apparent that large meetings are back,” he says. “Demand for large events has been so strong that we’re currently working with customers to secure availability into future years during peak times in key markets. After being apart for a few years, customers are showing significant energy surrounding meetings, and that’s evident in our group bookings.”

Robinson continues: “With the return of large meetings comes the return of what people missed most about in-person gatherings: being together and networking with others.”

To that point, he brings up Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center’s Harbour Social—purpose-built for networking. It is complete with a sports bar, shuffleboard, air hockey tables, duckpin bowling and a bocce court. At JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, the hotel’s 10K Alley offers a stylized taproom, where attendees can try over 40 Florida-brewed craft beers, barrel-aged bourbons and signature cocktails. Attendees can additionally enjoy the gaming arcade, bowling and minigolf.

Inclusive Experiences for Meeting Attendees

“Far more than a trend, inclusion continues to be a central pillar for meetings and events planners, from thoughtful inclusive menu planning to neuroinclusive meeting practices, including dedicated quiet rooms, sensory/fidget toys and closed captioning for event presentations,” Robinson says. “As identified in our industry research with PCMA released in our ‘Guiding Principles for Experience Design,’ designing for belonging—considering different abilities and varying needs related to mental health—is essential for a successful meeting and will be a key driver for experience innovation in the industry for years to come.”

Aligning Content for Gen Z Attendees

Sheraton Orlando Lake Buena Vista Resort Disney World group perk

Planners and strategists are seeing an increasing number of Gen Z meeting attendees and are incorporating elements tailored toward their engagement (think: shorter sessions and gamified interactive activities).

Not exclusive to Gen Z travelers, but certainly more prevalent among the demographic is also an increased interest in bleisure travel. “As evidenced by ‘shoulder night’ bookings on Sundays and Thursdays, guests are adding days pre- and post-conference—a sign that blended travel is here to stay,” says Robinson. “Many businesses are now selecting their hotel/meeting space based on family-friendly amenities, such as a pool, childcare or kids camp programs, and perks to nearby attractions.”

Good to know: Sheraton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, which has more than 31,000 square feet of event space, offers group perks such as complimentary Walt Disney World Resort tickets to groups with room blocks of 50 or more.

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