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The MICE are back – how proposals are changing.

The Global Meetings Incentives Conferences Events Industry is Expected to Reach $1,337.4 Billion by 2028 according to Allied Market Research. From the Latest London Convention Bureau data, London has seen 52 new hotels openings (7,632 additional rooms) in the past 2 years. In addition, there are wider considerations making an impact: According to the ICE Annual Benchmarking Report, 77% of respondents said sustainability had become their key challenge.


We speak to Joost Doevendans, Head of Sales, Proposales to learn how RFPs are evolving and how much of the MICE market has returned:


1. What are the key trends in MICE business?

2. How can hotels be adapting their offering or utilise their space better?

3. How do you digitalise the RFP process?

4. How must hoteliers adapt their thinking and processes?


Programme Notes


Ryan Haynes:

Hello and welcome to Travel Market Life. I'm your host, Ryan Haynes. And today's show, the mice are back, how proposals are changing the global meeting, incentives, conferences, events, and industry is expected to reach a whopping $1337.4 billion by 2028. According to Allied Market Research from the latest London Convention Bureau Data, the city has seen 52 new hotel openings. That's 7,632 additional rooms in the past two years. And hotel investment into the UK, capital remains strong with as many as 439 hotels already in the pipeline now that is just London, let alone other cities across Europe and the world.


Ryan Haynes:

Obviously providing a significant increase in choice for event planners and business travellers. So, there is a huge opportunity, yet huge competition for hotels. In addition, there are wider considerations that make an impact. According to the ICE annual benchmarking report, 77% of respondents said sustainability had become their cheeky challenge. Well, today I'm going to be speaking to Joost Doevendans, the head of sales of Proposales.


Ryan Haynes:

Hi, are you, thanks ever so much for joining us today. So, I mean, as we saw there in the introduction, there's a huge change in the market. Pandemic has really sort of shaken things up. What are you seeing as you get back out on the road and speaking to hotels?


Joost Doevendans:

Hi Ryan. Thanks for having me. Yeah, like looking a year back from now, like it couldn't be more different almost. It's great to see how meetings and events have returned. Like it was really a big question mark if people would be willing to meet. And of course, at the end of the day, we do see people who really want to meet people who still love to meet face-to-face and just really meet up not only on events, but also just in general customer meetings internally, and externally. So, I think it's great to see that people want to meet up again when it looks when you look at the booking process, you do see that still there's way shortly times where people would book half a year, a year, two, three years out in the past.


Joost Doevendans:

Now it's a, it's a matter of weeks or months. So, it's really important that hotels are able to, to, to respond to like shorter lead times. Yeah, and I also think that people did discover more remote destinations compared to city destinations. In some places, we still try to avoid cities a bit and they're really busy cities, so that is good for more remote destinations in general, the rise of virtual tours, and hybrid events really came up, I think, which is a great development and, and definitely kick like it came in and it, and it's, and it grew way faster because of covid. So that is a good development.


Ryan Haynes:

I mean, it's been a fascinating year really with the event space. You and I have been out on the road. We've crossed paths a couple of times and really the dynamics that even I'm seeing in the industry of hospitality and travel are very different. You know, the big huge trade shows are not as big and huge as they used to be, but the smaller conferences are certainly attracting a whole new audience as they're really focusing on very specialist topics and niche subjects. At the same time, we, you know, we are hearing these corporates as well, you know, not necessarily having everybody in the same office Monday to Friday, nine to five, and they're more remote working, so they're going in for two or three days a week.


Ryan Haynes:

Now the way they're now hosting it, their corporate gets together is more as away days or away weekends. So, to bring everyone into one space. So, this sounds like, you know, there's, there's so much more opportunity there for is to be able to consider. How are you seeing hotels perhaps adapt to their offering or what are some of the trends that you are seeing from the event planners and, and, and, and mice management themselves?


Joost Doevendans:

Yeah, I think, I think you're right to say that there are fewer events, but the value per event is higher. So there are people who invest more in each event. Also, internal meetings. So, like, because people don't come together five days a week from nine to five in an office. Companies host internal meetings more and they want to have people coming together once in a while for just brainstorming sessions or, or things like that. And then, as I said before, like 3D tours and virtual tours is really something that, that hotels have adapted and, and, and, and that grew way more than before.


Joost Doevendans:

Metaverse, like more and more vendors in that space, come up and it's cool to see how hotels really adapt that and how customers also enjoyed using it. So yeah, I think a more virtual experience in combination with more internal events, I guess.


Ryan Haynes:

I mean, it has been interesting to arrive at the metaphors and some of the applications for the IT industry in particular. We see the likes of Matterport and Hotel First really bring that to life a lot more, especially for event planners to be able to explore the hotels, the offering to see what's, how it's suitable for different types of meetups, et cetera. And I guess that's, you know, really helping the decision making processes as well, well as a planning process. But as we alluded to at the beginning, just in London alone, there's a huge amount of investment with new properties and they themselves are going to be equipped with probably the latest technologies and, and systems and processes. So, digitalizing this, disengagement with these mice because it's so important, isn't it?


Ryan Haynes:

I mean, where do you start with sort of like addressing the challenge that we've inherited over the last few decades when it comes to traditional event planning?


Joost Doevendans:

Yeah, good question. And I think something that for many event planners and hotels is a pain. Like they don't really know how to move away from the manual and the, yeah, the labour intensive process of booking MICE and groups. At the moment in Europe, still, 70% of micing group business is booked offline so far. Email and phone cause a lot of back and forth over email, taking a lot of time for sales teams. And I think the first step is really to start collecting a request in an online format. So have a widget on your website to be able to really pull that information into a proposal straightaway so you don't have to do that manually.


Joost Doevendans:

And also, then use an interactive format. So instead of using static PDF documents or whatever, where for every little change the customer has to reach out to the hotel, the hotel has to respond to it manually, which is not only labour intensive, but also super time consuming, like the customers waiting a lot. So really start with an interactive format and start collecting that data in an online way. And of course, people will tend to email and call you in, in the first place, but then if you push them into using that online format of fighting their request, hotels will be able to also respond in a way faster and online format.


Ryan Haynes:

I mean the proposal process in total, I mean, if you think about the factors that need to be considered, I guess there are so many huge numbers of features where from whether is it going to be catered, not catered? Are you going to have rooms, or are you not going to have rooms? How many rooms you want, how many people, how many chairs, how much seating, how much lighting, whether there's going to be a stage. I mean, it could go on and on really. So, I mean, there must be a need as well to really for, for even the event planners themselves to really be thinking about what's the purpose of this and, and why are we doing this? And for hotels to really understand that from the outset.


Joost Doevendans:

Yeah, I think many, the larger, the larger chains have really tried to fully automate the process of booking micing groups business. And I think they came back from that because as you said, it's simply too complex. There's too many, like a room, you have a few room types, it's with or without breakfast, that that's basically it, right? It's fairly straightforward, but there are so many complexities and I believe that hotels, like guests, don't want it to be fully automated. They want it to be fast and efficient and personalized, but they don't want it to be fully automated simply because it's not fast and it's not personal and it's not easy. So, I think moving into a semi-automated way where you get to receive that information in a, in an, in an, in an online format, enabling the hotel and the guest to really interact in a different, and in more digital and the quick way would really help to add different communication channels like Webchat, whatever, whatever it takes, whatever your customer uses to, to make it easier for them to respond to, to the request or to the proposal.


Ryan Haynes:

I mean, are you finding as you sort of engage with hotels that, you know, it's not just about making sure that there is this digital channel to make that communication live and available, but also there is this need to adapt thinking and processes within the hotel so they are more efficient?


Joost Doevendans:

Yeah, of course. Like at the end of the day, I think hotels are afraid that they're going to make a change in the process, which their customers won't like, and that their customers will like, move away from them because they're, they're offering something in a different way. And like of course it's resistance to change that we see everywhere, right? But I think in the hotel industry it's a bit more than in other places. And I think it's important that hotels are bold enough to make a change and offer things in a different way. And I think we don't have to be afraid that customers don't like the change. I think they will, they will really enjoy it. And that's also what we see, like customers at the end of the day, we buy things in a different way than we did it 10 years ago, right?


Joost Doevendans:

Everything we buy, we buy on our phone, we buy it online. And it's not because we were asking for it, it was because it was offered to us by, by companies like Amazon booking.com gorillas, you can, like, you can have your groceries to doorstep within 10 minutes if you want. And it's not because we wanted it so badly because they, they were, they made it possible. And I think hotels can make it possible to, to their customers without having to be afraid that the customer doesn't like it really.


Ryan Haynes:

And we are seeing huge challenges for hoteliers, particularly from talent recruitment, retention perspective, shortage of staff, having the right sort of mentality, mindset for today's digital age that I guess it's also making it an environment for hotel salespeople to really enjoy and to thriving more importantly. So where are you seeing hotels making the savings within their teams and operations, and how are you seeing this reflected in the organization of sales teams?


Joost Doevendans:

Yeah, super relevant. Still, hotels are struggling with staff shortages. And I think one of the things is really starting qual, like one of the pains with the current process of booking my group business is people don't really know what they're responding to. Like, it's pretty hard to qualify a lead if it just comes in via email. You don't really know yeah, what, what is the likelihood this is going to become business? Currently, conversions are relatively low and I think if hotels would be able to qualify that leads in a better way from the start, they would know where to focus and they can be way more efficient in focusing on the ones that have a high likelihood to close versus the ones that are not very likely to close.


Joost Doevendans:

And for that, you would have to really start collecting data, move into qual, move into a place where you get the request online so that you start collecting data about the type of customers, the type of requests. And I also think to start doing that before there's going to be external companies doing it for, for the hotels, like what happened in room distribution, right? We don't want C events to start walking away with the data of the hotel and start becoming more intelligent than the hotel about their customer, which is the case when you look at OTAs, right? They have all the data, but they're just not sharing it. And I think that's one of the good things about managing groups still, 70% is offline, but also 60 to 70% is still direct, which is an amazing opportunity if, if hotels tap into that opportunity and keep it, keep it that way.


Joost Doevendans:

But for them to keep it that way, I think they need to be really under, with optimizing the process, become faster, have to right, have to right systems in place to have those people in the organization respond fast, respond in a way that customers like to, to like have a mobile friendly proposal, have something that is interactive so that you can actually respond to without having to call or email and wait for a response. And that will also make sales teams way more efficient. So yeah, it's really about speed, personalization and efficiency. And I think, yeah, again, moving into an online format and a data-driven approach will make sales teams way more efficient at the end of the day.


Ryan Haynes:

Thank you. Wonderful. You know, I think that's, you know, really insightful and as you say, particularly important because if it's direct booking and for these sorts of events, it's huge value to the hotel, it's a huge amount of revenue and it's not worth giving that over to a third party, as you say, losing your data, but then also the huge amount of commissions you end up charging, being charged on top of that now. I mean, proper sales have not been long in the marketplace really still, still quite young and, and, and building your positioning and, but you've been, you know, incredibly active in the marketplace. You’ve seen you guys everywhere, which is just fantastic. So, kudos to you guys, but can I ask you, you know, what are the challenge that you guys as, as, as, as a business are, are facing to engage hoteliers nowadays, particularly this day of age with your value offering and, and, and get the attention that you need?


Joost Doevendans:

Yeah, I think number one is resistance to change. That is, that is something our industry like that I've seen in, in the previous, in the previous travel tech companies have been, it's just a resistance to change and especially because we are a fairly new solution like you said, and not many hotels have a specific proposal tool in place. So, we're not replacing any vendors. So, they don't sometimes see the urgency of having one. And then with that resistance to change comes also the resistance, resistance to giving the customer something that they're afraid they might not like. So, they always liked that PDF document and they know the process for that.


Joost Doevendans:

Why would we give them something else? What if they don't like it? I think that is something that is sometimes holding back. And then lastly, connectivity remains a hot topic, which is a good thing. So we are building more and more connectivities with BMS systems and CRM systems, but I think it's been the talk of the town, of course, like everyone wants everything to be connected. Although that doesn't mean that if it's not connected, it cannot bring value or more value. And for that, I think I'm, I'm trying to always say like, hey, take it a step at a time and, and aim for it to be better than it was. And don't aim it for it to be perfect because like in all honesty, we're not going to make it perfect from day one if it's ever going to be perfect at all.


Joost Doevendans:

So aim for it to be better than it was and based on that, make your decisions.


Ryan Haynes:

Indeed. Thank you very much indeed. Appreciate you joining us.


Joost Doevendans:

Thanks a lot, Ryan. That was great being here.


Ryan Haynes:

So brings up some really interesting points there and it's certainly worth checking out some of the library of podcasts that we have on travel market life where we do talk about APIs and integrations and we talk about the wider tech stack and how hotels have really sort of adapted to that and really gone on the process with vendors to make sure that they have the right integrations in place for the right reasons. You can join us again, as used to mentioned will be at the International Hotel Technology Forum 2023 in Austria. Also, at the end of January on the 31st. Join us at the Global Revenue Forum in London, Milan or Stockholm or virtually I've been your host, Ryan Haynes.


Ryan Haynes:

Thank you ever so much for joining us. This is Travel Market Life. Ciao for now.

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