Leaps in technology have altered the way business people, friends and family meet. People can talk to one another almost continuously, in any place and at any time. And the hospitality industry has embraced the changes in communication by installing the types of IT solutions that discerning hotel guests increasingly demand.
However, the challenge for hotels is combining these new technologies with tailored services that make each brand unique and the guest experience complete. For example, while facilities like video conferencing can connect people thousands of miles away, the team building trend continues to escalate demanding that hotels become more and more astute in bringing people together in innovative ways.
Within InterContinental Hotels Group, the world’s most global hotel company, Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts believes its properties strike the right balance between cutting-edge technology and a personal service, especially for its corporate guests who have established the hotel brand as the ‘place to meet’.
Rather than distancing people, the wireless internet connection installed across Crowne Plaza properties is helping people conduct meetings more easily and speak to friends and family in an environment that suits them.
The team at Crowne Plaza Amman in Jordan have noticed that guests are now meeting both formally and informally in an increasingly diverse number of places throughout the property thanks to the installation of wireless internet in public places as well as hotel rooms.
“Everywhere you look people are meeting - in the lobby, in all the F&B outlets and even out in the sunshine by the poolside”, said Khalid Abu Khaled, IT Manager, Crowne Plaza Amman in Jordan. “The universal accessibility of the internet is giving people more choice about where and when to meet, as well as increasing businesses productivity.”
With the continuing influx of international business people flocking to the region, there has been a trend towards smaller and informal meetings and a relaxation of some of the formalities traditionally associated with corporate events. Technology has a part to play in this shift, with the instant accessibility of information and the internet meaning that men and women on business trips can communicate with their colleagues whenever they need to – whether in their hotel room, having a coffee, or even at the dinner table if necessary.
As well as connecting people across time zones, modern communication technology is helping hotels accommodate more people in areas where they can both do business and socialise. And with occupancy rates now high all year round in the Middle East, the availability of coffee shops and hotels rooms with internet access and other business facilities is invaluable.
But it is not only technology that is relaxing the way business people choose to conduct their meetings and events. At Crowne Plaza Dubai smaller group meetings and more casual set-ups are increasingly popular, reflecting both the style of the international business community and the rise in meetings in general.
“We get lots of requests from companies wanting to conduct interviews and other one-on-one meetings as more and more organisations set up base in the Middle East and require hotel facilities as extensions of their offices,” said Lisa Kradenian, Convention Director, Crowne Plaza Dubai. “In addition, the trend towards casual seating and workshop sessions as oppose to large-scale briefings is changing the types of facilities we offer.”
However, Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts realises the importance of maintaining boardroom-style meeting facilities for guests who continue to demand a more traditional set-up. At Crowne Plaza Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt for example, business from large, local organisations is unchanged.
“The corporate sector here is very systematic and therefore always meets in the same way,” said Mohamed El Guindy, Area Director of IT, InterContinental Hotels Group. “The way business people use technology has moved on tremendously and we have updated our property and meeting areas inline with this development, however our formal meeting rooms and traditional business facilities are a core part of the portfolio and will continue to be for as long as guests demand them.”
While elements of hotels in the Middle East retain a traditional feel, they are equally forward thinking and like their counterparts throughout the world are under pressure to provide solutions for team-building and conferencing that compete with leading specialists.
“Our corporate guests often prefer to obtain team-building or conferencing packages from one place, rather than outsourcing these services or doing the job themselves,” said Kradenian. “Hotels are therefore branching out into many areas of expertise, including supplying the cutting edge technology often required for large-scale meetings and themed corporate events.”
Hotels are also required to be more and more creative with the ideas they propose for the events they hold. The world-leading brands now present in the Middle East demand world-leading events and although this often means organising the largest, biggest and best, it also demands that the hotel can arrange something a bit different to make the company stand out.
“We recently accommodated a global news agency in our ‘Jazzercise’ room within the Fitness Centre,” said Ziad Fostuq, Director of Sales and Marketing, Crowne Plaza Amman. “Our brief was to create a relaxed, fun and different environment and the client loved the location.”
“At Crowne Plaza, Dubai we even used Zinc nightclub when it was under construction,” said Kradenian. “The themed event fitted with the company who hired out the venue and the cocktail party was sensational. It really stood out as a unique event - the food and drink was served on planks of wood and tools!”
One over-riding factor that outweighs technology and innovation for many companies booking hotel venues is guaranteed return on investment.
“Corporate guests are expecting more for their money when they book packages these days,” said Tom Rowntree, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, InterContinental Hotels Group, Middle East & Africa. “There is an increasing focus on ensuring return on investment (ROI) and while this has not affected the level of business from the corporate sector, it does mean hotels are under pressure to provide more inclusive products and services within the packages we offer.”
As part of this emphasis, more meetings now have a serious training component to them. At Crowne Plaza, Amman for example, the team has noticed an increase in demand for long-term meetings or training sessions and believe most event organisers look for full-board packages to ensure value for money.
While technology is clearly changing the way MICE facilities are exploited in hotels, with guests able to communicate around the clock from the lobby, coffee shop or poolside at the touch of a button, a globalisation of meeting trends is increasing the demand on hotels’ expertise with the ability to provide tailored, personal services at the top of the list.
At Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts the hotels’ management teams are addressing these issues by diversifying product offerings to ensure all properties are both ahead of market trends and have a flexible approach to guests’ increasingly varied demands.
About InterContinental Hotels Group
InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotels across the region can be booked with toll-free calls to the InterContinental Hotels Group Middle East Central Reservations Office in Bahrain (80000 880), Egypt (0800-4433322), Jordan (0800-22666), Kuwait (473 2100 ext 6233), Lebanon (01 426-801 - ask operator to connect to 866 866 7556), Oman (800 777 999), Pakistan (00800 909 971234) Qatar (0800 971234), Saudi Arabia (800 897 1465), and the UAE (800 4642).
InterContinental Hotels Group PLC of the United Kingdom [LON:IHG, NYSE:IHG (ADRs)] is the world's most global hotel company and the largest by number of rooms. InterContinental Hotels Group owns, manages, leases or franchises, through various subsidiaries, more than 3,500 hotels and 535,000 guest rooms in nearly 100 countries and territories around the world (www.ichotelsgroup.com). The Group owns a portfolio of well recognised and respected hotel brands including InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn ® Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn Express®, Staybridge Suites®, and Candlewood Suites®, and also has a controlling interest in Britvic, the second largest soft drinks manufacturer in the UK. InterContinental Hotels Group offers information and reservations capability on the Internet - www.intercontinental.com for InterContinental Hotels & Resorts,
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