Meetings and conventions on the rise | ParkRecord.com

Meetings and conventions on the rise

Gina Barker, The Park Record

Meetings and conventions are making a comeback. Following the national trend, Park City hotel and lodging properties are seeing a major uptick in the number of groups visiting. The Park City Chamber/Bureau, which serves as a popular contact point for meeting planners looking for information about properties in the area, has been flooded with inquiries recently.

Meetings and Conventions Sales and Marketing Manager for the Chamber/Bureau Tonya Sweeten said the number of inquiries from January to July has increased by 100 percent from the same time last year. Sweeten added that roughly 40 percent of all inquiries turn into actual bookings with local properties, a significant increase from last year.

"Park City is more visible now that it has been ever," Sweeten added. "That’s due to not only our legacy with 2002 Olympics and the Sundance Film Festival, but our luxury properties using their advertising dollars to drive business. There is definitely an increased awareness of what Park City has to offer."

After 2007, Park City, along with the rest of the nation, saw a major dip in the number of bookings for meetings and conventions. Serving as a major portion of summer business for hotel and lodging properties, many properties were forced to take a hit.

"When the economy was in its heyday, we were getting at least six months to a year’s notice from meeting planners who wanted to book," said Debbie Batt, the Director of Sales and Marketing at the Park City Marriott.

"There are not enough transient and leisure guests to fill the hotel," she added. "Groups are such a big part of the business. Groups provide a base of occupancy to all hotels, and without a group base, it can be difficult to hit 100 percent occupancy. We like to have 50 percent group guests and 50 percent leisure guests."

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Meeting planners are still lagging in how much notice they are giving to the property to book a meeting, with as short a time as two months before the event, Batt said. Overall, the Park City Marriott is up by roughly 10 percent for group events, a fact that keeps her optimistic that the trend will continue.

Nationally, the number of meetings and conventions is rising. The market is shifting from an environment where meeting planners were making last-minute reservations for better deals or simply forgoing retreats and meetings to a seller’s market where hotels and lodging properties have more options and can demand better prices.

"I would say that with meetings and conventions, corporations and group travel went into hibernation," said Chris Eggleton, the general manager of Newpark Resort, "but now there are definitely more bookings. I would say we’re getting back to more regular bookings."

"We continue to deliver more and more in the way of attractions, activities, restaurants, and entertainment," he added. "Planners are really seeing that, and they are saying, to me at least, they could come back year after year."

The Park City Chamber/Bureau reported 904 groups booking in Park City in 2010 based on numbers received from participating lodging properties, a total of 36,197 attendees. In 2011, that number started to rise, hitting 1,490 groups, a total of 61,484 attendees.

"I don’t think we can point to just one factor behind the increase we’re seeing this year," Sweeten said. "There are several involved. Nationwide, even worldwide, there has been a steady increase of meetings and conventions, an estimated four percent to this point for 2012. People are cautiously planning again."

Meetings and conventions have always been a big part of Park City business, especially in the summer months. Whether it’s the Triple Crown Softball Tournament, the Park City Tattoo Convention or a Bing Corporate Retreat, Park City has been home to all sizes and types of events, but as the economy improves nationally, more businesses are returning to the idea holding group events.

"A lot of the job is bringing awareness to meeting planners," Sweeten said. "A lot of people know about Park City, but don’t envision us as summer destination, when most meetings and conventions are held. But that is a huge part of what we do."

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