Atlanta easing back to business

Americas Expert Opinion
Atlanta easing back to business

The Kimpton Sylvan in Atlanta, USA’s director of sales and marketing, Tenille Perry offers a perspective on the local hospitality sector’s rebound:

 

While the Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly brought many challenges to the entire hospitality industry over the last few years, it has perhaps most notably presented obstacles for the event sector.

During the first two years of the pandemic, there were almost no corporate events taking place across the board. Although staffing and recruitment were our primary challenges (leading to nimble managers wearing many hats!), hotels and event venues also had to pivot to limited menus and hybrid functions that they had never produced in the past.

Venues, particularly those within hotels, had to get creative with staffing because there were moments when they needed to hire people with no prior experience. Our staff also had to become very flexible and work in departments they may not have had experience in or known much about.

With guests and clients becoming more and more inclined to travel in recent months, and as Covid restrictions continue to ease in the US, companies across the nation are recognising the importance of bringing their employees together with the re-emergence of in-person connection. As a result, venues, such as The Kimpton Sylvan in Atlanta, GA, where I serve as the director of sales and marketing, have begun offering unique ways to help ease people back into doing in-person business – including new promotions and incentives. In addition to offering no attrition or cancellation fees, our property has seen a few major trends: hybrid events, which allows some attendees to be virtual and some in person, outdoor events, and individualised and thoughtful catering such as smaller offerings with individualised bites or fully plated meals, taking out the risk of contaminants and the sharing of utensils.

Given that most hotels are currently surviving with leisure and social business, there are now much shorter booking windows for groups. In pre-pandemic times, there would normally be a 90-120-day booking window for small groups; that became a much shorter 30-45-day window in 2021. I’ve seen this slowly increasing over the past few months to about a 60-day booking window now.

Over the last month, The Sylvan has seen a significant increase in meeting and event leads, resulting in higher business, so forecasting has become much more difficult.

Atlanta was one of the first cities to open back up, and this served The Sylvan well, but it was very tricky with constant cancellations and re-bookings. One citywide event rebooked five times!

Statistically speaking, in the summer of 2021 business started to pick up for The Sylvan with smaller corporate events between 8-10 people. And, while a few companies did start to venture out for larger meetings of 40-50 people, the Omicron variant surfaced in late 2021, and January 2022 saw large cancellations again.

Beginning in February 2022, a year after the hotel opened, the small meetings once again started to reappear, and our lead volume has increased ever since. There have been plenty of micro-weddings and virtual weddings, but people were feeling pent up as well because they had been waiting for a booking window for quite some time and this has led to an increase of in-person bookings in 2022.

The state of meetings and events remains in flux, but with the proven importance of reconnecting in person, our local industry  clearly hopes to see a boost of bookings throughout summer and beyond.

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World. Write Paul an E-mail

Leave a Reply