“We have not been [here] before,” said MGM senior vice president of MGM Resorts International Mike Dominguez, in a recent Smart Meetings webinar, referring to the state of the hotel industry going into 2019. The hotel industry has seen consecutive record occupancy numbers over the last few years and it is projected to continue. As 2018 comes to a close, Dominguez shared some insights into what he sees for the future of the meetings industry.

Transient Room Stays Rising Fastest

Since 2009, hotel room occupancy has increased steadily and is now breaking records with average occupancy at 65.5 percent in the United States. “We have never occupied that many rooms ever,” Dominguez emphatically stated.

Demand from individual travelers has grown even faster than bookings from groups. From 2007 to 2018, transient room growth increased from 123 million to 173 million rooms, a 50 million room increase. Groups added 1 million, moving up from 84 million to 85 million.

Millennials Will Check In

The generation accused of a tendency to reject face-to-face meetings is showing up at events, after all. Despite the rise of Airbnb, Dominguez pointed out that millennials, particularly older millennials, still prefer to stay in hotels.

In a meetings study by conducted by IAEE and PCMA, millennials proved to be the ones who desire face-to-face more than any other of the peer groups. There were three reasons millennials chose to meet face-to-face: networking, mentorship and professional development.

Dominguez suggested that planners should focus on an individual’s psychographics rather than demographics. Generational groupings aren’t nearly as important as personality, attitude and interests. “Focus on the behavior, not the age,” he says. Using social media or preferring the physical over digital version of any given thing does not place you in an age group, but rather an interest group.

Fun Rules

Dominguez shared behavioral science studies showing that when you make an otherwise dull activity into something fun and engaging, the results are powerful. An experiment by Volkswagen proved this by painting a staircase in a train station to resemble piano keys, thereby increasing the number of stair-takers by 66 percent.

The Ideation Studio at the Park MGM in Las Vegas exemplifies an engaging meeting space. Along with writable walls, chairs are raised a foot higher to put participants on an equal level with the speaker, increasing engagement.

You can view all archived webinars at SmartMeetings.com.