In an atypical move to attract small meetings to its properties, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts' Summerfield Suites brand last month introduced a new incentive program. Without the necessary function space or event-specific amenities to host all but the smallest corporate meetings, extended stay and all suite properties generally have ceded that segment to larger hotels. Nevertheless, Mini-Meeting Rewards offers planners a choice of one amenity among cash credit, frequent flyer miles, an American Express Gift Cheque, a charitable donation, use of an attendee management and registration tool or an Aeron chair.
The amenities and amounts offered through the new program vary depending on total expenditure of the meeting, according to Wyndham director of marketing Michael Bagg. He added that the program was designed less as an entrée into the competitive corporate meetings market than as a way to persuade existing guests to meet onsite.
"Things have been slow for awhile, though there's been a general pickup, and Summerfield Suites has never really focused on meetings," Wyndham's Bagg said. "We've focused more on training and relocation. We're finding corporations are utilizing our accommodations for employees, but then meeting outside the property."
Bagg said 23 Summerfield Suites properties, mostly located in the Southwest and Northeast regions, have meeting capabilities. Those hotels house between 1,200 and 2,000 square feet, enough to hold events for between 30 and 90 attendees. "They don't necessarily have to be staying with us, though," Bagg said. "We're very dependent on those communities and our backyard markets."
He noted that one trend in corporate meetings management that Summerfield Suites hopes to exploit is the propensity of some corporations to force employees to share hotel rooms while attending events. Bagg said the chain's all suite setup is a natural fit for such policies.
All Summerfield Suites meeting stays apply to Wyndham's frequent stay programs, and, for now, the brand's meeting program has no expiration date.
Though Summerfield Suites' plan is unusual in that it is an all suites brand doing the offering, it does fall in line with the trend throughout 2004 of hotels chains devising new meeting incentive programs that are based on amenities, not hard-dollar refunds (Meetings Today, June 7).
The latest chain to board that ship is Omni Hotels, which last month inaugurated a program offering planners choices of frequent flyer miles or frequent stay points, weekend hotel stays, industry association memberships and charitable donations for newly booked meetings of at least $25,000 in total spending.
Planners can transfer the rewards to their corporations or attendees. Bookings must include at least 10 room nights.
"Select Rewards reinforces the value we place on meetings and events business," said Tom Chevins, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Omni Hotels. "We know our clients value flexibility and customized products. From our meetings contract to meetings solutions to the Select Rewards program, we not only recognize but deliver on the specific needs of our clients."