the 3rd edition of A View from Meeting Planners: Winning Strategies in Destination Marketing

Ahead of the IMEX America show in 2017, the annual trade show about the convention business that the most meeting planners attend, a spokesman for the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas responded to my query regarding hotel security for the event with reassuring words but, just a week after the Las Vegas shooting which was perhaps the worst hotel security breach to ever occur in America, for obvious reasons he did not get specific about what additional measures would be undertaken.

Yes, the IMEX America show in Las Vegas must and did has gone on twice since then, but what’s also very obvious, not without questions from meeting planners.

A study conducted by the University of Nevada Las Vegas of meeting planners, showed that even ten years ago, 79% of the respondents cited safety and security as one of the most important factors when selecting a hotel (Hilliard, T.H. and Baloglu, S. (2008). “Safety and Security as Part of the Hotel Servicescape for Meeting Planners”, Journal of Convention & Event Tourism, 9:1, 15-34).

More recently, in the third edition of A View from Meeting Planners: Winning Strategies in Destination Marketing, the 2019 destination marketing Report by Development Counsellors International (DCI), summarized its findings by saying that the “…chief of them is how safety has grown as a top concern for planners…”

Have they taken all precautions? Have they invested in safety and security? Will they share responsibility?

The chart above from the DCI report shows how respondents feel –  security plans should be shared among all the major stakeholders.

It’s not just that meeting planners are asking these questions, some are inserting clauses in contracts. For the hotel industry, this is a potential nightmare and few are going to agree to assume liability for events beyond their control.

There are currently no international or independent standards for guest safety and security adopted across the industry. Each chain, hotel group or individual facility is left to its own competitive instincts.

Each planner has to decide what they are comfortable with. Studies show that meeting planners are willing to pay extra for a sense of security, and hoteliers should know they can recoup their investments.

According to another study, The Physical Safety and Security Features of U.S. Hotels, led by Dr. Cathy Enz, a Cornell hospitality professor, “Overall luxury and upscale hotels, newer hotels, larger hotels, and those located in urban and airport locations recorded the highest scores for safety and security.”

To date, reads a Safehotels Alliance, an industry association that is attempting to speed the adoption of its hotel safety and security program and certification, “Many hotel companies and hotels seem comfortable with the ‘low probability’ part of the risk equation whilst being underprepared or under-resourced for the ‘high impact’ part.”

In the same report, they predict market change will be coming.

“This is similar to, say, a hotel restaurant striving for Michelin stars or Rosettes, or demonstrating sustainability and environmental credentials by going for a ‘Green Award’.” It will “…raise awareness for hotels and resorts actively using safety and security as a confirmation of best practice and industry consistent standards, transforming into a marketing tool.”

This transformation has already gained traction in Europe and the Middle East but has been slow to take place in the United States judging by a list of the group’s members. However, in light of the tragedy like the one in Las Vegas, I’m sure our industry will rethink this.