MARLTON, N.J. — LCT Magazine recently talked with executives of destination management companies about what they’re seeing in the business travel market. This week, Michael J. Lyons, DMCP, president and CEO of GEP Philly, shares some of his observations:
First of all, clients are definitely cutting back. They are cutting back on the numbers of people attending events and the types of transportation they are using. They may now group attendees rather than have a meet and greet for each individual. Before we often saw one person with one vehicle; now that is not the case. Attendees may have to wait 15-20 minutes to be grouped. More shuttle services are being used in lieu of individual rides. Shuttles may be provided every half hour on the half hour. If you miss one you wait for the next. The psychology of people is also a little different. They are more accepting of these practices. The guests of organizations are not complaining; they’re just happy to be able to attend the meeting. We are now all getting used to a new world. We tend have a little more patience simply because of the circumstances. It’s no longer a big deal to wait.
Some companies are electing to not provide any transportation. They tell their attendees to just to hop in a cab. This requires no staff at the airport. Cabs tend to be less expensive than alternative transportation. Departures are not as affected because they traditionally use motorcoaches. When the meeting breaks, people get on a coach and go to the airport. The overall number of departures is being limited and we are not seeing staggered departures. There is a great deal of consolidation.
We are seeing price pressure causing us to renegotiate with our suppliers. The byproduct of this is that meeting planners are seeing much more value. GEP Philly is working with the convention and visitor bureaus to give a turnkey package which has everything included: hotel, transportation, audio visual, etc. It is less menu-driven, and it gives more value to have a one stop shop for the planner. We are being more creative by partnering to make this a more attractive package. We want it to be a great value to have a meeting in Philadelphia.
We have seen cancelations. We are pleasantly surprised that we have not seen the kind of cancellations that some of the others cities do. You won’t get fired booking a meeting in Philadelphia. We offer great culture and amenities, but no meeting planner will get in trouble.
Meeting planners are holding the purse strings tight until the last moment. We have seen a short term pop up business. We see things in a matter of days. The airlines have softened their fair structure. Meeting planners are now holding onto the decision process until the last minute. We need to be much more nimble. It’s tough to forecast staffing and revenues. It’s rare that we see things more than three months out. Companies are being much more cautious. They are making sure all approvals are in before they book anything.
Source: Linda Moore, LCT Magazine