Airport Hotels Are Helping Shrink Attendee Travel Times

Author: David McMillin       

They’re also getting pretty awesome, too. As time-strapped attendees look for ways to maximize their time on the ground, hoteliers are developing new properties with plenty of event space just steps away from the security line.

While many attendees tack on vacation time to business events, blending a conference program with personal relaxation time isn’t for everyone. Time continues to be the scarcest resource for today’s busy professionals, and some prospective attendees aren’t looking to immerse themselves in all a destination has to offer.

Especially physician attendees. As physicians deal with new regulations and overwhelming patient loads, they are paying particular attention to the time spent getting from here to anywhere. According to research conducted by global health-care firm Ashfield, physicians are only willing to spend 4.7 hours traveling to a meeting — a decrease of more than two hours compared with the same study in 2016. That heightened demand for more convenient travel experiences is inspiring some event organizers to help them skip the taxi line for downtown once they touch down in a host destination.

“More medical meetings are looking at airport properties,” Pat Schaumann, senior director of health-care compliance at Maritz, told PCMA. “It’s easy to get in and out, which is a big selling point for physicians who don’t want to be away from their practices for a long time.”

Schaumann added that regulatory requirements typically limit medical professionals to four-star properties. Since airport hotels tend to be in the three- and four-star tier, the environments eliminate any concerns associated with staying in rooms at the high end of the pricing spectrum. Next month, attendees will be able to earn 11 CME credits at the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases’ Hepatic Fibrosis Single Topic Conference at the Hyatt Regency DFW International Airport. Later in September, the World Congress on General Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine will welcome medical professionals to the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel at the Philadelphia Airport. In October, participants at the MENA Health Insurance Congress will gather at the Millennium Airport Hotel in Dubai.

“You won’t see many large-scale medical meetings at airport hotels, though,” Schaumann said. “They tend to be sites for smaller events like advisory board gatherings.”

Hoteliers Offer New Airport Options

Physicians aren’t the only professionals who are growing increasingly tired of wasting valuable minutes in planes, trains, and automobiles. When the Global Business Travel Association surveyed business travelers in four regions of the globe in 2017, every audience’s biggest frustration was the time they spend in transit.

More hoteliers are hoping to alleviate the issue, making arrival at the airport synonymous with arrival at the hotel. Consider the new TWA Hotel at JFK Airport, which will offer 50,000 square feet of event space when it opens in 2019 — a big bonus for anyone who wants to avoid getting anywhere from JFK, which is basically everyone. The new Grand Hyatt at San Francisco International Airport, set to open in the summer of 2019, will include 15,000 square feet of event space. And in Minneapolis, the recently opened InterContinental Minneapolis – St. Paul Airport offers more than 30,000 square feet of meeting space.

“We are very excited about it,” Nathan Hermiston, senior director of destination sales, Meet Minneapolis, told PCMA. “It is going to open us up as an even more convenient destination for the fly-in, fly-out high-profile meetings. That’s a market that we have not been able to truly play in before. Now we’re in that sandbox, and there is a lot of elevated opportunity.”

That elevated opportunity comes with an elevated coolness for attendees and travelers, too. While some may associate airport hotels with a shuttle ride to an entrance by an expressway, hoteliers are upping their game to make the airport a good place to be. The rooms at the TWA Hotel are right up an Instagrammer’s alley, with their mid-century modern decor, mini cocktail bars that would delight Frank Sinatra, and rotary phones. In Minneapolis, the observation bar at the InterContinental gives aviation lovers a penthouse-level place to enjoy craft cocktails, and a new spa opened last week to help weary travelers recover from the stresses of flight delays, middle seats, and lost luggage. So while the experience of being on a plane might not be getting much better, these new properties offer relief, within steps of the jet bridge.

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