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Business and Event Management highlights from Accor Hotels Global Meeting Exchange Event in Barcelona

BI WORLDWIDE's Head of Events, Shaun Casey, joined more than 300 business and event management professionals at this year's Accor Hotels Global Meeting Exchange event, held at the Fairmont Rey Juan Carlo I Hotel, Barcelona. Shaun shares his time at the event:

Tapping into the power of personalisation – panel discussion

Discussing the state of the economy and gaining better insight into Accor Hotel’s strategy following their acquisition of the FRHI hotel group, Shaun was also part of a panel focusing on ‘tapping into the power of personalisation’. Moderated by Martin Lewis, MD and Owner of CAT Publications, the panel discussed how personalisation plays an important role in motivating both conference attendees and incentive travel winners.

BI WORLDWIDE’s focus on performance improvement and event management automatically draws the company into providing a premium, personalised service for its event participants. Shaun explains: “A personalised experience will drive emotion. Emotion is at the centre of engagement, which in turn drives performance improvement. This simple formula is applied not only to incentive winners to recognise their achievements but also to conference delegates to ensure that they attend and gain maximum value from their attendance.”

Is it possible to create a personalised experience if hundreds of participants are attending an event? Shaun’s view is a categorical yes. “If we take the Fairmont Rey Juan Carlo I Hotel, their staff wouldn’t point to the conference room, they would accompany us to the door. That is a little touch which shows they care about us as individuals, not just as a group of delegates. At BI WORLDWIDE we work with a number of premium brand clients where a premium, personalised experience delivered by our agency is a sine qua non!”

Casey continues: “An individual experience which is in line with a premium brand experience of our customers is delivered through a combination of attitude and sophistication; the attitude of our Associates to focus on the small touches which will delight the individual, and the sophistication of our technology which allows our Associates to deliver this best in class service. We need our business partners to be on the same page to see the delivery through!”

Rates are up, budgets are down and there is a tendency for corporates to move away from third party agencies to deliver their events.

  • Shaun Casey
  • Head of Events

Discussions around industry trends

Key note speaker Dr. Gerard Lyons opened the conference by providing an overview of the current economic environment across the globe. He shared some surprising revelations about what’s to be expected over the next 50 years:

  • Africa will see the strongest growth in population of a working age.
  • There will be a strong trend towards urbanisation growth and influence.
  • 90% of the world’s economic growth will be outside the EU, with the Indo-Pacific region becoming the engine room.
  • The old Silk Road itinerary generating prosperity to cities along the route in the past will be replaced by the One Belt Initiative led by China.
  • Second tier cities along the new route will gain importance and the focus will be directed towards Istanbul, the Stans and Africa.

Chris Cahill, CEO of Accor Hotels LUXE, highlighted the demand of Millennials and the emergence of technology services such as John Paul, a personal concierge service for urban status seekers. Hotels in the LUXE collection (which now includes the FRHI group) are focusing on individual experiences and well-being / vitality as is being developed by Swissotels. The work-life balance is becoming the pre-requisite in achieving customer excellence in the hotel industry.

Martin Lewis moderated a panel providing an insight into trends within the MICE sector. Rates are up, budgets are down and there is a tendency for corporates to move away from third party agencies to deliver their events.

Kate Scully from Petrofac stated that corporates are looking for specialist, rather than a one-stop-shop. More shockingly perhaps, the M&IT survey provided by CAT Publications indicated that only 2% of corporate event planners book based on brand loyalty. Are hotels focusing on the wrong area then?

Technology and Millennials

Looking at technology, a straw poll of corporate event planners revealed that less than 1% is using Virtual Reality in their events. A bigger challenge for hotels is the event planner’s requirement for internet connectivity. Katherine McCartney, Owner of PDW who produces the famous TED talks conference, stated that hotels need to provide up to 1GB for the corporate event planner to work effectively in today’s connected world.

Another key note speaker, Oscar Van Weerdenburg, tackled the topic of ‘four cultural competencies essential to building stronger global business relationships’. Perhaps the most surprising revelation for the baby-boomers of the MICE industry is that Millennials are less inter-culturally competent, despite being better connected and working more internationally. These findings were based on detailed research from leading international business schools specialising in cultural understanding in business.

At the end of the four day conference, the mood of the audience was upbeat and positive for the future of events. Clearly there are some big challenges ahead: US travel bans on certain nationalities, flexibility in working patterns and the ever-evolving need to personalise and tailor experience to the individual. What’s the route to success? The formula remains unchanged but is often still disregarded by many companies. Find the talent, invest in it. This will be the service differentiator and the financial results will look after themselves.

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