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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Howe Returning to Speak at 
Small Market Meetings Conference

Students are often asked by their teachers to keep up on current events. That’s what one of the speakers at the next Small Market Meetings Conference will help delegates do in order to stay abreast of the latest developments in the hotel, resort, travel and meetings industries.

Jonathan Howe, an acclaimed industry attorney from Chicago, will make a return visit to the conference, which is scheduled for October 2-4 in Huntsville, Alabama. Howe says he’ll bring myriad topics for delegates to mull over.

A key message for everyone: The marketplace is always shifting. One current topic in the hospitality industry is the future of Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Marriott International has been trying to buy Starwood in a potential deal that would make it the biggest hotel chain in the world. But Marriott is in competition with Chinese interests, and the sale price keeps climbing. All this, says Howe, will greatly impact the hotel marketplace.

One fallout could be a possible “culture clash” between two hotel chains merged into one. “Will you still have the same level of confidence as to the delivery of services?” said Howe. “Will you have the same contact person?”

Howe said some believe a hotel merger means business as usual, but that’s a myth. “How many sales offices can you have? How many vice presidents can you have?”

Another area of interest to Howe is what he calls “lift,” how efficiently and effectively meeting attendees are able to fly into and out of certain markets. Are there going to be enough flights assigned to a particular city, and will there be enough seats available on them? Also, will meeting attendees waste endless hours in airports waiting for connecting flights?

Howe will also address the motivation it takes for a delegate to decide to attend a meeting in a certain destination. Howe thinks some cities are not working hard enough to make themselves attractive to potential meeting attendees.

Howe said there is constant ebb and flow of buyers’ and sellers’ markets and which one is currently up or down. “Right now, I would say it is pretty much a sellers’ market, but you’ve got to watch whether that will remain true several weeks or months from now before it changes again.”

Another challenging issue Howe will discuss is cybersecurity. Meeting planners routinely take reservations and perform other sign-ups online for their meetings. “But how safe and secure are your Internet connections?” Howe asks planners.

Liability issues are always at the heart of Howe’s talks. He routinely asks planners to consider every way possible to protect their companies or their attendees in case of an unplanned incident.

Small Market Meetings Conference attendees often have contract negotiation questions for Howe, and he’s happy to oblige them. “How will you be able to facilitate the road map to a very successful event? That becomes the key element,” he said.

Dan Dickson

Dan has been a communicator all his professional life, first as an award-winning radio and TV news reporter for two decades and then as a communications director for several non-profits for another decade. He has contributed to The Group Travel Leader Inc. publications since 2007.