Heads in beds — it’s the adage that destinations have always relied on to define the value of a meeting. However, when 1,400 leaders from the destination marketing community came together for DMAI’s Annual Convention in Minneapolis, one big question emerged: are room blocks the wrong way of looking at convention business?
“We have to look at each meeting holistically as a full economic footprint,” Fred Dixon, CEO, NYC & Company, said as he moderated a panel on the future of meetings of conventions. “But we have to think about content, too. Room nights will always be on the table, but we have to look at impressions generated and content generated, too.”
Consider a convention that unites 5,000 attendees in a city. Sure, these attendees will spend money on lodging, dining, transportation and entertainment during the experience, but dollar amounts may not be enough to articulate the full impact of all those attendees. Dixon highlights an important point: when those attendees post photos of destinations and share their experiences with their friends, how does all that activity elevate the destination and create potential future business? And what about when local, regional and national media cover the convention? Doesn’t that create even more value?
While measuring the real value of media impressions may be challenging, the panelists agreed that the room night equation may not be doing enough. “The traditional housing block model is broken,” Deborah Sexton, President and CEO, PCMA, said.
Recent research conducted by leading convention organizations shows that one in three group room nights are booked outside the block. “We’re accustomed to going online to find the best deals possible,” Sexton said. “Just because someone is a member of an association doesn’t mean they’re willing to book a room that’s more expensive in a hotel where they don't want to stay.”
Which factors do you think should be part of calculating the value of a piece of convention business? In addition to room nights, what can your group contribute to a destination? Go to Catalyst to share your thoughts.