By Roko Palmič, Regent Porto Montenegro

Roko Palmić is a hotel industry professional, specialized in sales and marketing, strategic planning and execution of plans. He held positions, among others, as Director of Sales and Marketing for Hotel Sacher Vienna & Salzburg and The Regent Esplanade Zagreb. Currently he is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Regent Porto Montenegro.

As I already stated in my previous article, business guests really do want it all. They want a perfectly organized congress or any sort of a business event, but afterwards they want to relax. Usually they don’t mind a swim in a hotel’s swimming pool, a massage or a spa treatment. Even during a congress break they can relax with a 5 minute neck massage, or enjoy some essential oils to boost their energy. This is what we call a comprehensive service and it is designed to meet individual needs of business guests.

But now, the MICE industry is about to face a challenge

During the last couple of years, a lot of hassle has been made about some industries, especially pharmaceutical industry and the way they used meetings services. There were numerous rumors, and almost informal allegations about those business meetings, congresses, events, that were out shadowed by the informal part of the event. Spa treatments, trips to the beach (if the event was held on the shore), evening program at the hotel….all this was in the focus of the event more than the event itself. When the recession broke out, numerous companies throughout the US and Europe started to cut costs firstly on the MICE services. Hoteliers and meetings industry had to face this challenge: a lot of annual events were now cancelled and „moved“online, over Skype or similar communicators. Also, a lot of companies delivered strict rules in terms of budget, so many of recent 5* business guests had to transfer to 4* and even 3 * hotels permanently, regardless of how much low(er) rate the 5* hotel offered to them. It was about the principle. 5* hotels became unpopular and it was considered unethical of some sort to use luxurious hotels for business services.

Finally, the last challenge the meetings industry has to face is the pharmaceutical codex, which might soon be adopted by some other industries, for example, the banking sector. The codex is very strict about using hotels with the word „resort“ or „spa“ in their name for meetings services. In short, pharmaceutical industry is not allowed to hold any business events in such hotels, regardless of their event program, or the fact that they will use the company money solely for the business purposes, excluding spa treatments and similar activities. Pharmaceutical industry is one of the key generators of business for meetings industry and the hoteliers, so this codex came as big problem, or as we like to use euphemisms, as a big „challenge“.

Now we have meetings industry, especially hotels (since congress halls are not affected with this codex) trying to adapt to the new situation.

Some hotels, for example, in Germany, organized themselves under one reservation system/web site that gathers all hotels and venues that are approved according to the pharmaceutical industry codex. This is a good initiative and a powerful sales tool for hotels and a useful tool for event organizers on behalf of the pharmaceutical companies. Other hotels, that are „lucky“ and do not incorporate words „resort“ or „spa“ in their name, still do business as usual, offer their venues and business services, but some special treats as neck massage of free use of the swimming pool are not offered in any written form. It is, of course, up to the participants themselves to see if they will use the swimming pool, or recreational centre. This leaves the room for the hotels to still keep offering „the perfect service“, offering, off the record and free of charge all those services that are left out with the codex, counting on the main goal: keeping the participants happy, satisfied and willing to return to the hotel, with their family of within the business arrangement. It remains to be seen how the pharmaceutical industry will meet this challenge.

Finally, we have hotels and hotel chains named „resort“ at the coast and numerous city and coastal hotels that incorporate the word „spa“. And for the irony to big greater, these hotels added deliberately these words in their name in order to differentiate themselves from other and to offer „one step further“ in providing the perfect service.

[pullquote]Hotels are ready and they offer everything the business guests need. It is up to companies, especially pharmaceutical ones, to weight pros and cons of tight regulations once again with regards to motivation of the employees and how the meetings industry might reflect on them.[/pullquote]

We really have a dilemma here: I do agree with the moral and ethical goals of the codex and yes, meeting means serious business, in the first place, and not fun and relaxation. Meetings mean business. But also, some small perks, as a neck massage, essential oil therapy or a simple swim in the hotel pool does not always mean decadence and a waste of company money. It simply means, from the hotel’s point of view, a value added service, and from the guest’s point of view it may mean that key word that all HR consultants are searching for: motivation.

Business people work hard, long hours, take uncomfortable trips and transfers, do stressful business deals and agreements, all for the benefit of the company. And sometimes a small favour, such as those I mentioned, can mean the world to them and motivate them in two ways: to keep the hotel in mind as the best hotel they ever stayed in and transform them into a loyal guest, but also transform them into a motivated employee, a loyal contributor to the company. This represents a truly important detail for the company, because, as we all know, no matter the industry, the bottom line is that it all starts and ends with the people. With their skills, talent and motivation. And this is, I assure you, one of the motivation tools.

It is not a big decadent spending of company money at the hotel bar, but these are just small perks, that are now listed as „spa“ and as inappropriate, according to the codex.

I am almost sure that in the future we will face more and more less motivated employees, just due to these regulations. How to deal with this? Well, the meetings industry, and especially the hotels are here, with the wide range of services, available any time. The future will bring either the current status quo and focus of the „spa“ and „resort“ hotels towards leisure guests and business guests, but outside the pharma industry. Or, maybe, we can expect a bit of a loosening the tight rules of the codex, which would lead, in my opinion, to a less stressful day of the business guest, but also of the meeting organizers. This would mean, that the comprehensive service with a wide range of options would be delivered again.