The hospitality industry needs to keep evolving

Expert Opinion

The last four years have been tumultuous for the hospitality sector and it seems that customer requirements are changing at a rapid pace. How can a venue possibly stay at the forefront of this type of market? By constantly evolving so that tailored solutions not only meet specific needs but the client is made to feel like they are getting value from every penny.

This year is the 21st anniversary of our four-star conference centre and hotel Burleigh Court in the UK – I was there when the doors first opened and can safely say that a lot has changed.

We’ve seen the highest rate of public sector bookings sink to their lowest. Venues have been forced to adapt quickly by changing sales and marketing strategies to appeal to new markets.

One of the biggest changes relates to the booking of residential events. More people are deciding against a 24-hour rate and instead ask delegates to book their own accommodation. This has resulted in many opting to travel back home rather than stay overnight. This not only has an impact on pricing structures but it can also damage the effectiveness of a conference, as delegates spend less time socialising with colleagues and networking at the venue itself. 

Organisers often look for ways to mitigate some of the risks associated with booking conferences, leading to a much shorter plan cycle with budgets being committed much later in the day. The result is the need to be more flexible with terms of business and more creative with the services that can be offered.

A lot more time now needs to be spent working with clients who can’t make the investment themselves. Venues are therefore taking on much more of an event management role, mainly due to the reluctance of many businesses to spend money outsourcing the responsibility. This added service is blurring the traditionally distinct lines between the venue and the event organiser; I definitely see the industry going down this path as it becomes increasingly competitive.

I predict that the next 21 years for imago and Burleigh Court will see continual investment to ensure that our services keep up with such a fast paced industry. It will be interesting to see whether the Olympic legacy does have a measurable impact on businesses outside of London – we will certainly be looking to utilise our credentials as part of the Team GB preparation camp to appeal to international contacts through IMEX and EIBTM.

– Kay England is the Chief Executive of imago, the hospitality brand of Loughborough University in Leicestershire. Any comments? Email conferencenews@mashmedia.net

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