The hospitality industry is in constant flux, making it a challenge to keep communication lines open between its various sectors. To maintain a strong relationship with its meeting and event partners, Sonesta International Hotels Corporation relies on its own Meeting Planner Advisory Council (MPAC), made up of 16 event strategists who come from diverse corporate backgrounds across the United States.
Originally launched in 1983 and rebooted in 2015 as part of Sonesta’s rapid expansion, the MPAC aims to organize two on-site meetings at a Sonesta property each year. In May, Convene was invited to join its most recent meeting at the Royal Sonesta Boston.
Actually located across the Charles River from Boston in picturesque Cambridge, Massachusetts, the newly renovated Royal Sonesta Boston served as the perfect spot for Sonesta to showcase its meeting and event capabilities to its six visiting MPAC members. After touching down in Boston on May 10, we checked in to the Royal Sonesta, where we were met with strawberry Moscow mules and treated to a tour of the property, including its 28,000 square feet of newly renovated event space — t to host up to 1,000 guests — and its additional 3,000 square feet of outdoor event space.
After the tour we were directed to one of the hotel’s many breakout rooms for a night of grazing on small plates like chicken skewers and tres leches cake. Although the MPAC members enjoyed becoming acquainted or reacquainted with one another — members’ attendance is based on availability, so not everyone had been in the same room before — we attempted early bed- times in preparation for the official first day of the MPAC program.
Sure enough, bright and early the next morning, it was time to get down to business with a full day of learning. After a delectable breakfast in the Royal Sonesta’s Parkview meeting room — miniature bagels and fruit parfaits, anyone? — we walked across the hall to the Riverside meeting space, which indeed overlooks the Charles River and Boston skyline. There, we were joined by eight members of the Sonesta team and an additional meeting planner, Michelle, who participated via a Double Robotics video-chat robot.
Right after learning about Cambridge, we were turned loose on the town. We were encouraged to explore the many local offerings, including the Cambridgeside Galleria shopping mall, located right across the street from the Royal Sonesta, and the Museum of Science, just a few blocks away, where we could pick up a Duck Tour of the city or check out the exhibits inside. That night, Sonesta whisked us o for a boat tour along the Charles River, where we sipped cocktails and enjoyed views of Fenway Park’s Green Monster and MIT’s renowned campus.
Day two of the MPAC meeting was reserved for more-interactive discussions in the Parkview and Riverside meeting spaces, where we filled up on colorful fruit smoothies. We kicked off with a lively, Convene-led roundtable reflecting on the topics of the previous day, including disaster communication between hotels and planners, the most stressful aspects of the meeting-planning process, and the ways in which taking part in an MPAC relieves some of that stress.
Although we could have chatted all day about the theoretical benefits of an MPAC, day two brought to light just how valuable such meetings are for planners and hoteliers alike. We mulled over how hotels can better serve planners, with a particular focus on how Sonesta can improve its meeting-specific web pages to better suit planners’ needs.
Our second session ended around lunch, when our time together came to a close. While we spent less than two full days together, it was clear that everyone involved was taking home valuable information — and already daydreaming about what Sonesta location to meet at next.