2016 Conference Predictions

Conference and Meetings

From demands on technology to an increased focus on security, Claire Rowland, Director of Marketing at QHotels shares her conference industry predictions for 2016.

Technology

Demand for increased connectivity is putting technology right at the top of 2016 trends. The expectation that we're always 'on', plus the expectations of younger more tech-savvy bookers in the industry, means that rapid delivery and response times have become a key differentiator of good service. E-proposals and E-contracts have become the norm in recent years, shortening the timeline between enquiry and booking and as a hotel group we're mindful of the need to continue to deliver ever-more timely solutions in innovative ways.

The expectation of immediacy can also be witnessed in the conferences and events themselves, with the demand for use of mobile technology during events. Whether that's for social media or streaming files and information, the pressure on services such as Wi-Fi just keep growing.  The use of technology is now actively encouraged at most events and our recent Brainwaves campaign actually revealed that the use of social media, such as Twitter, can actually aid concentration and improve how event content is absorbed. 

Tied in with this is the blurring boundaries between work and home life. With the growing popularity of wearable devices such the Apple Watch and life-tracking and health management tools such as Fitbit, consumers are constantly receiving potentially massive quantities of data and expect to access this at all times of the day. This means we have to support this expectation and better understand the segregation, or lack of, between work and home life; as consumers expect the same access to technology and experience that they enjoy at home, when they are on the move.

Across our group we're investing £1million in our Wi-Fi facilities in 2016 to help cope with the increasing demands of multiple connected devices ensuring that up to 500 people can connect at any given event.

Training

An area of the industry which remains high on QHotels' priorities in 2016, and also one that we are seeing a major change in, is training and careers. There is undoubtedly a shift in perceptions around hospitality bringing it more in line with how 'service' roles are viewed in Europe. We're seeing young people entering the industry because they view it as a good career and are interested in on-the-job learning rather than going to University.

QHotels implemented a Foundation Degree in Professional Hospitality Operations Management, the first qualification of its type to be provided by a UK hotel group and have seen the first 15 employees graduate through the scheme in September 2015.

Not only has it given them a hands-on education in operational, managerial and sales roles, it's also fostered a great relationship with QHotels and BirminghamUniversity. These links between employers and educational providers is something that we expect to grow and become an increasingly important part of the industry if we want to attract the best people.

From a bookers' perspective, we've witnessing an uplift in demand for our QHotels Inspirational Training facilities and forecasts suggest this will continue to grow in 2016: generally a sign of confidence returning to the market.

Security

Security will feature for a couple of reasons. We anticipate increased focus on how you ensure safety at large-scale, high profile events given recent events globally. 

Having hosted party political conferences at The Midlandin Manchester and multiple team stays during the Rugby World Cup, we recognise that security will be high on our clients' agendas in 2016 and that they will expect to see these procedures and practices in place and working effectively as they look to choose venues and event partners.

The other security aspect worth mentioning is one of holding and transferring client information. As technology plays an increasing role in conferences and events, the amount of information that we share digitally has increased dramatically and with that comes the need to reassure clients that it is being done securely.  Our 2016 investment in our Wi-Fi infrastructure has been planned to help our clients and delegates continue to connect safely and securely.

Sustainability

Sustainability has perhaps not been at the top of bookers' priorities list during recent economic times. However, with the increasing confidence in the market we expect to see this move back up the list in 2016.

QHotels hosted its first entirely paperless conference in 2015 at The Westerwood and we expect to see more of this sort of event in 2016. We currently offer our corporate clients the opportunity to take part in a carbon offsetting initiative and as an industry we will need to continue to find new ways of off-setting and minimising the impact of conferences to help meet clients' requirements and sustainability targets.




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