Seasonality and periodicity of demand

Just as for leisure tourism, most commentators claim to detect seasonal patterns of demand for meetings, demonstrated by months and days of the week when demand is predictably higher or lower than at other times. For example, concerning the UK meetings market, Shallcross (1998; p.B-48) writes:

The conference market is highly Seasonality and periodicity of demand seasonal with pronounced and relatively predictable peaks ... Conference activity peaks in March and in September, October and November, while activity tails off significantly in December. Trends in seasonality are essentially common to all venue types. The months of least activity are July and August, coinciding with general holiday Seasonality and periodicity of demand preferences as one would expect.

Witt and Moutinho (1995) note that Fighiera (1985) also documented a notice­able tendency to seasonality in the distribution of demand for meetings, and specu­late that a partial explanation for these patterns might be the indirect impact of 'natural' factors related to climate - principally the availability of Seasonality and periodicity of demand accommodation at relatively cheap rates in holiday resorts at times of the year that lie outside their normal peak season for leisure tourism.

But while this particular supply-side factor undoubtedly plays a part in deter­mining levels of demand for meetings held in resorts such as those on Seasonality and periodicity of demand the French Mediterranean coast, there are different factors contributing to the seasonal distri­bution of meetings in other types of venue. For example, Shallcross (1998) notes that peaks in meetings activity in educational establishments coincide with periods of student vacation.

Witt and Moutinho (1995; p.94) acknowledge this, concluding that predicting Seasonality and periodicity of demand the seasonality of demand for meetings is far from straightforward:

It is clear from Fighiera's data, however, that the matter is more complex ... in that climatically similar regions (for example, the Netherlands and the UK) do not report the same cycles in the distribution of meetings. Moreover, national and Seasonality and periodicity of demand international events follow quite distinguishable cycles. Evidently any explanation will have to concentrate principally on configurations of institutional factors (timetables for the parliamentary year, for example) which will interact with more conventionally seasonal factors.

At the same time conference facilities are most in demand on Thursdays, which is Seasonality and periodicity of demand the most popular day of the week with both the association and corporate sectors. This is followed closely by Wednesday and Tuesday. It is interesting to note that almost half of associations are also holding events on Saturdays, while the percentage of companies asking their employees to give Seasonality and periodicity of demand up part or all of their weekends in order to attend meetings is far lower.

Suppliers

In order to respond to the extensive and varied demand for meetings of all kinds, a comprehensive infrastructure of suppliers offering a wide range of facilities and supporting services must operate efficiently and Seasonality and periodicity of demand in harmony. The suppliers in this market are those who make available for hire the venues and other services that make it possible for meetings to take place. Although most of this section concen­trates on the actual buildings in which meetings are held, it is important to bear in mind Seasonality and periodicity of demand that an equally vital role is played by the suppliers of the other types of services that also contribute to the success of meetings. These include the audiovisual contractors who rent out specialist equipment, the telecommunications companies whose video/tele/satellite conferencing services can extend the number of participants Seasonality and periodicity of demand for meetings, interpreters and translators, speciality caterers, floral contractors, and exhibition contractors.

But while the importance of these auxiliary services cannot be overestimated, the fact is that the choice of a suitable type of venue is one of the most crucial decisions to be taken in the organisation of Seasonality and periodicity of demand any meeting. The meetings facility market is represented by a wide range of venues of differing sizes and levels of equipment and services. To a large extent, this variety reflects the differing needs of meetings organisers.

Hotels

Hotels have traditionally supplemented their role as accommodation and catering providers with Seasonality and periodicity of demand that of suppliers of rooms where meetings may be held.

During the past few decades, hotels have increasingly recognised the advantages of supplying meetings facilities. As Smith (1990) indicated, even those hoteliers who not so long ago regarded meetings as a minor, low-season activity, useful in quiet months Seasonality and periodicity of demand as an adjunct to the banqueting department, now often see conferences as a profit centre in their own right.

Despite the rise of many different, competing forms of venue, hotels are still where the bulk of meetings take place. They account for over 70% of the provision of meetings space Seasonality and periodicity of demand in the UK, according to Shone (1998). In terms of demand, Greenhill (2000) showed that in the UK, city-centre hotels were the most popular type of venue for both the association and the corporate market, with airport hotels coming in second place as venues for corporate meetings.

For hotels, the attraction Seasonality and periodicity of demand of offering conference facilities - which can range from a single seminar room to a whole conference wing - is easily explained, since it often represents the opportunity to take profitable advantage of underutilised resources and infrastructure. Better still, residential conferences increase occupancy rates and can often generate higher room rates than Seasonality and periodicity of demand the leisure market. Under the eternal pressure of increasing occupancy, many hotels may even have come to depend on conference revenues to a substantial degree (Shallcross, 1998).

For the organiser, the attractiveness of hotels as meetings venues is also mani­fest. While once conferences may have been low on many hotels Seasonality and periodicity of demand' priority list, with badly lit rooms, and a flipchart and an indelible marker being described as 'com­prehensive facilities', many now offer sophisticated technology and staff who are trained to provide a dedicated service. One point of contact, a money-back guar­antee if clients are not satisfied with Seasonality and periodicity of demand either service or catering, and all-inclusive quotes ensuring a bill with no surprises, are all commonplace (Chetwynd, 1998). However, it is clear from buyers' reactions that service is also of fundamental importance, and no amount of elaborate facilities will compensate for mediocre staff skills and attitudes. Greaves Seasonality and periodicity of demand (1998b; p.38) quotes the words of a Halifax Financial Services course coordinator listing her priorities when choosing a hotel for training sessions: 'The quality of service is the most important factor for us. We will not use a hotel again if the trainer is dissatisfied with it; and Seasonality and periodicity of demand we also look at the service in the restaurant and whether the hotel has additional facilities such as a business centre or health suite.'

To match the first-rate conference facilities in which, over the years, private hotels and hotel chains have invested, many of their staff have also acquired specialist Seasonality and periodicity of demand marketing and organisational skills, enabling them to offer a proficient one-stop shop to meetings organisers.

In short, all of the evidence appears to suggest that considerable progress has been мейд in the level of professionalism and service that meetings organisers can expect from hotels in Europe since Seasonality and periodicity of demand Smith wrote:

European hotels trail behind many hotels in North America, where convention man­agers offer personal attention to meeting planners from the first inspection visit through to the event... Meetings planners in Europe say those friendly faces they first meet have often disappeared before they bring delegates some time Seasonality and periodicity of demand later, and many hotels admit they see conferences as secondary to banqueting - even properties which advertise themselves as outstanding conference venues. (Smith, 1990; p.72)

To their afore-mentioned strong selling points must be added another clear advan­tage offered by hotels as venues: namely, that if an overnight stay Seasonality and periodicity of demand is involved, the delegates are all in one place, with everything they need, from leisure and catering facilities to accommodation and occasionally even shops under one roof. As dele­gates have no need to travel between their accommodation and the venue, this can amount to considerable time-savings for them, as Seasonality and periodicity of demand well as greater security, particu­larly in cities with high street-crime levels.

Hotels located at airports have the potential of offering an additional time-saving advantage. Chetwynd (1998) points out that for organisers bringing delegates to the UK from around Europe or the world, the advantage Seasonality and periodicity of demand of keeping them near to the air­port are enormous savings of both time and temper - no sitting in traffic jams trying to reach the city centre. She goes on to describe how 12 hotels at London's busiest airport have grouped together to form the consortium 'Destination Heathrow', to Seasonality and periodicity of demand market themselves as a serious contender to the capital's city-centre properties.

Shallcross (1998) makes the point that levels of one-day conference activity are much higher at city hotels than at country hotels. However, for the more lucrative residential conferences, country hotels are proving to be equally asattractive - perhaps reflecting the Seasonality and periodicity of demand perceived benefits of 'getting away from it all'. He adds that country hotels seem to get a larger proportion of their business from association and government usets than city hotels do.

Hotels situated close to conference centres and other types of non-residential venue are well Seasonality and periodicity of demand placed to benefit as providers of accommodation for delegates. Rogers (1998; p.36) adds that 'additionally, the bigger association conferences often choose one hotel as their "headquarters" hotel and there can be significant public relations benefits with the hotel being featured in national and sometimes international television and media coverage'.

A final Seasonality and periodicity of demand, not inconsiderable factor in favour of hotels as meetings venues is identi­fied by Chetwynd (1998), who maintains that for their meetings events, Americans very often prefer hotels to dedicated conference facilities, because of the more personal service and atmosphere that they believe hotels can offer.

However, hotels are Seasonality and periodicity of demand by no means ideally suited to hosting every type of meetings event. For example, the limited size of meetings facilities in many hotels is a factor that can restrict the number of large events they are able to accommodate. While hotels may excel as the venues for meetings events for several Seasonality and periodicity of demand hundred delegates, those European hotels that can match the capacity of Disneyland Paris's Hotel New York, with its 5000 m2 of conference space accommodating up to 5000 delegates (Greaves, 1999), are very few in number.

But more important than problems of capacity may be a hotel's lack of flexibil­ity in Seasonality and periodicity of demand the types of meetings space it can offer. For example, many hotels remain vulnerable to the criticism that their standard multipurpose function rooms are inadequate to meet all the needs of the contemporary conference organiser. Even in London, with its extensive supply of hotels, this particular limitation of hotels Seasonality and periodicity of demand appears to present difficulties. In an article on this subject, Trelford (1999; p.78) quotes the Director of Travel Operations of a major meetings planning agency, who claims that: 'London is deficient when it comes to decent conference space coupled with bedroom space. The problem is that hotels tend to have Seasonality and periodicity of demand one available meeting space - usually a wonderful ballroom - and that's it.'

In the same article, Trelford highlights what she perceives as another limitation of hotel conference facilities: the fact that they often lack syndicate rooms, which are now a major requirement for practically all large conferences. Chetwynd Seasonality and periodicity of demand (1998) concurs, citing another meetings planner:

[Hotels] may be happy to host a standard conference, classroom-style with a lectern, but many do not understand what a big convention is about. If I want to use a conference room for a breakout session and a ballroom for a plenary session Seasonality and periodicity of demand, for an event that may take one or two days to set up - something complicated - even big properties do not want to take it.

Branding

Since the early 1990s, many hotel chains have branded their conference product to assist in the promotion of their facilities and services and to Seasonality and periodicity of demand build customer loyalty. Examples of some of the best-known hotels' conference brands are Forte's Conference Privilege, Marriott's Meeting Edge and Thistle Hotels' Conferenceplan. Branding works by guaranteeing buyers that they will receive the same quality-assured level of service whichever hotel in the chain is used. The branding Seasonality and periodicity of demand of hotel conference pack­ages is usually accompanied by a money-back guarantee if a hotel fails to deliver on any aspect of its quality-assured services.

From the point of view of the buyers, branding brings a number of advantages, not least of which is the security Seasonality and periodicity of demand of knowing that their meeting will be planned and will take place according to a number of assured, written standards. Such standards may, for example, state how promptly the initial enquiry will be dealt with, exactly how hotel staff will assist on the day of the event, how the Seasonality and periodicity of demand meetings room will be set up, how the bill will be calculated, and how soon after the event it will be sent to the client. Moreover, the buyers know that exactly the same stand­ards will apply, whether they are hiring a room in the chain's Seasonality and periodicity of demand London hotel or in its Lusaka property.

A further advantage for the buyers is that most of these branded meeting pack­ages are often marketed directly at them, therefore bypassing the need to use an agency or intermediary. This issue will be examined in more detail when trends are considered Seasonality and periodicity of demand at the end of this chapter, but the growth in availability of directly mar­keted hotel meetings packages is clearly a challenge for those who make their living through finding and organising meetings on behalf of buyers.

The widespread practice of hotels branding their conference product points to the Seasonality and periodicity of demand considerable success of this method of serving the meetings market. However, as Rogers (1998; p.130) has indicated, the very homogeneity of hotel chains' branded conference products may not be to every buyer's or planner's taste:

Conference organisers are constantly looking for somewhere new, somewhere a little different to Seasonality and periodicity of demand make their event live long in the memory of their delegates. If delegates find that their surroundings and the type of service received are more or less identical at each conference, regardless of where it is being held, delegate perceptions of the event may not always be as Seasonality and periodicity of demand favourable as the organiser would have wished.

By way of summary, it is interesting to review the results of Riley's survey (cited in TTI, 2000) of those hotel attributes that play the most important role in deter­mining the selection of such venues for the meetings market* :

Meetings planners Seasonality and periodicity of demand' opinions (descending order of importance) Hotel managers' opinions (descending order of importance)
High quality of food Helpful staff
Cleanliness of hotel High quality of food
Experienced conference manager to deal with Cleanliness of hotel
Comfortable seating in conference room Comfortable seating in conference room
Good sound insulation in conference Seasonality and periodicity of demand room Experienced conference manager to deal with
Complete blackout available in conference room Availability of basic audiovisual equipment
Hotel able to accommodate all delegates in house Good acoustics in conference room
Helpful staff Hotel experienced and specialised in conferences
Efficient check-in and check-out procedures Efficient check-in and check-out Seasonality and periodicity of demand procedures
Good acoustics in conference room Hotel able to accommodate all delegates in-house
Air-conditioned conference room Good road links
Hotel experienced and specialised in conferences Good sound insulation in conference room
Availability of syndicate rooms Good parking facilities
Competitive room rates
Purpose-built conference room

* Source Seasonality and periodicity of demand: Riley, M. and Perogiannis. N. (1990). The influence of hotel attributes on the selection of a conference venue', International Journal ol Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 2.

Conference centres

It is not for nothing that conference centres, with their striking architecture, vast dimensions and often prominent locations, are called 'palaces' in several Seasonality and periodicity of demand European languages. Whether purpose-built or converted from buildings originally used for other purposes, a conference centre usually provides the most visible indication that the city in which it is located is an active player in the meetings market.

The rise of conference centres as venues is linked to Seasonality and periodicity of demand the explosive growth of the association market from the 1960s onwards. As associations grew larger and more international in scope, requiring much more meeting space, the stage was set for the construction of conference centres on a large scale. Rogers (1998) traces the devel­opment of conference centre construction, globally: during Seasonality and periodicity of demand the 1960s and 1970s, in cities throughout Europe and North America, sophisticated conference facilities were constructed in response to the needs of this rapidly developing market. In the 1980s and 1990s, similar large-scale conference centre projects were undertaken throughout much of Asia and the Pacific Rim Seasonality and periodicity of demand, with locations such as Hong Kong and Singapore developing state-of-the-art facilities to compete with established centres in Europe and North America. During the same period, new conference centres were built in a number of Eastern European countries, such as Hungary and the Czech Republic, as well as Seasonality and periodicity of demand in South Africa following the end of its apartheid system.

Other world regions are less well served with large, modern conference centres. In the rest of Africa and in Central and South America, according to Graf (2G01a), there have been no projects of international relevance for decades. He also cites Seasonality and periodicity of demand the examples of China, Russia, Indonesia and Brazil as evidence of countries which, despite the size of their populations, their land and political weight, are relatively poor in their supply of state-of-the-art conference facilities.

Although their illustrious and often imposing exteriors are important, not least for Seasonality and periodicity of demand the image they portray to visiting delegates as well as the city's own residents, it is the extensive space that they provide inside that sets conference centres apart from other types of venue. The principal advantage of conference centres is that they have the vast space Seasonality and periodicity of demand required to accommodate the largest types of meetings events, such as annual meetings of international associations, where the number of those attending can run to several thousands. They are typically well-equipped, with features such as the latest audiovisual equipment and booths for simultaneous translators, as well as Seasonality and periodicity of demand a wide range of areas that may be used as breakout or syndicate rooms or for catering (Shallcross, 1998).

In Europe, the vast majority of purpose-built conference centres are municipally owned, and some have been financed in part with state, federal or EU grants. In many cases, however, the actual management of Seasonality and periodicity of demand conference centres takes the form of a public-sector/private-sector partnership. This system is widespread in France, for example, as explained by Tuppen (1996; p.67):

In many cases, it is the municipalities themselves that have invested directly to ensure the construction of conference centres. Their subsequent Seasonality and periodicity of demand management is then often placed under the responsibility of a mixed economy company, in which the municipality is usually still a major shareholder. However, direct intervention by the municipal authori­ties may also occur due to the need to subsidise the often substantial running costs of the centre, for it is Seasonality and periodicity of demand relatively rare that the revenue from lettings covers these costs.

Tuppen's last point is of key importance, and is emphasised by, among others, Inskeep (1991) and Lawson (2000, p.18), who writes, of conference centres in general:

In most cases, a loss is experienced on the operating costs and/or debt charges Seasonality and periodicity of demand, which has to be borne by local tax contributions or levies on other properties (hotels, restaurants, etc). Against this must be measured the economic benefits to the area in attracting more visitors, higher tourist expenditures and greater room occupancies in hotels, along with the resultant multiplier Seasonality and periodicity of demand effects.

The traditional argument in support of the public subvention of conference centres runs thus: as a rule, investment in conference centres cannot be based on a project-cost feasibility analysis alone, since the direct revenue generated is often inadequate to meet operational costs, let alone service the debt incurred Seasonality and periodicity of demand in borrowing money to fund the building of such centres. But conference centres' dependence on the public purse is justified by the wider objectives that cities and towns may have in building conference centres.

What are those wider objectives? As well as the economic benefits already men­tioned by Seasonality and periodicity of demand Lawson (2000), he also suggests other possible motivations of destin­ations choosing to invest in the construction of conference centres:

• To provide a catalyst for regeneration of run-down city-centre areas, leading to private investment in hotels, restaurants and other commercial developments. To revitalise traditional resorts by extending market Seasonality and periodicity of demand opportunities and encourag­ing investment in upgrading hotels and other facilities.

• To contribute to the image and prestige of the city as a leading cultural and commercial capital.

• To support the role of the city as a фокус for business, trade, technology and/or research.

• To emphasise the independence and maturity Seasonality and periodicity of demand of the country as a meeting place for nations.

Most of these aims may appear worthy in themselves and uncontroversial, but in fact they are by no means accepted universally as being entirely valid reasons for the building of conference centres. One dissenting voice, among many Seasonality and periodicity of demand, is that of the Editor-in-chief of Tagnngs Wirtschaft, the Germany-based trade publication for meeting and incentive professionals. With particular reference to venues built to host large international events, he disagrees wholeheartedly with the concept of 'the conference venue as an image factor, financed by the taxpayer' (Graf, 2001a Seasonality and periodicity of demand):

City fathers are all too fond of setting up their own 'monuments' in an unholy alliance with architects blessed with more creativity than experience. No demand analyses are carried out ahead of the project, which is condemned to dependence on public subsid­ies, with 'induced earnings' being advanced Seasonality and periodicity of demand as the classical, rather dubious but still much-worn justification ...

A variation on this theme is the conference venue put in place for just one event [which is] deemed politically and/or strategically important - a World Bank meeting, a top-drawer political conference ... the world is full of Seasonality and periodicity of demand them. That was how the Philippine International Convention Centre in Manila, Asia's first convention venue, came into being. Today, it is very much a wallflower. Venues in Bangkok or Nicosia on Cyprus are similar 'one-event wonders'.

Investment in the construction of international conference venues has often been prompted by hoped Seasonality and periodicity of demand-for signal effects: 'Look! We're not a developing country any more.' At best, [such venues] will hook some association meeting rotating around the world — which, as a rule, does more to boost some politician's image than fill the venue's kitty.

Such reservations surrounding Seasonality and periodicity of demand the construction of conference centres for 'image' reasons notwithstanding, the most frequently encountered motivation for con­structing such venues is, undoubtedly, regeneration and revitalisation.

Examples abound of destinations that have pinned their hopes for the revival of their fortunes partly on attracting conference business. Some of the most striking are to be Seasonality and periodicity of demand drawn from the UK's former coastal and spa resorts, such as Brighton and Harrogate, whose conference centres have helped to reinvent them as business travel destinations. In Harrogate, tourism supports around 7000 jobs, an estimated 68% of which are sustained by non-leisure visitors fGoodhart, 1998). The same author describes Seasonality and periodicity of demand a more recently constructed facility, Belfast's Waterfront Hall Conference and Concert Centre, opened in 1997, with a capacity for 2200 delegates. She states that, along with the many hotel developments built to meet the increase in demandfor business tourism, the conference centre is 'the most visible sign of regeneration Seasonality and periodicity of demand in the city'.

The actual name, the 'Belfast Waterfront Hall Conference and Concert Centre', indicates another important characteristic of a considerable number of conference centres. Many are intended to serve not only as meetings venues but also to cater for the entertainment, recreational and cultural needs of local people and leisure Seasonality and periodicity of demand visitors. Lawson (2000) explains how such multipurpose buildings function: 'The main auditoriums are adaptable for concerts or other theatrical performances; flat-floored halls are invariably equipped to be used for meetings, exhibits and/or functions (receptions, dinners, banquets). In some cases, tiered seating can be removed to leave Seasonality and periodicity of demand a flat floor for alternative requirements.'

In support of such facilities, Lawson (2000; p.18) provides an economic justification:

It makes economic sense to provide for dual or alternative use. Congresses and con­ventions tend to be held outside the peak tourist seasons, which can then benefit from the entertainment attractions Seasonality and periodicity of demand. Meetings mainly occur on weekdays whilst weekends and the evenings are times for leisure and entertainment.

Indeed, some commentators, including Smith (1990; p.70), have gone as far as to claim that, in reality, it is fair to say that 'there is almost no such thing today as a conference centre. All Seasonality and periodicity of demand are multi-purpose facilities, and are indeed only rightly described as conference centres when there is a conference actually taking place inside them.' However, although this is certainly true of a certain category of conference centre - the municipal venue catering mainly for a local or regional market, and Seasonality and periodicity of demand having a commitment to providing services, such as cultural events, to the local community - it is not the case for all conference centres. As regards venues serving the international market, in particular, many would agree with Graf (2001a; p.8) that:

The smooth implementation of international meetings requires enormous manage Seasonality and periodicity of demand­ment know-how and special technical, room-arrangement, architectural and other considerations. Municipal, sports and multipurpose centres or hotel ballrooms are not convention centres, and most certainly not on an international scale, fond as they may be of marketing themselves as such.

Moreover, many would argue that it is indeed Seasonality and periodicity of demand fortunate that conference centres are capable of being used for a variety of purposes, for it is a fact that some of them have been criticised severely as being poorly designed for the hosting of actual meetings events. Part of the problem arises from the difference between what the architects Seasonality and periodicity of demand may consider to be a triumphant expression of their art and what the users of the buildings consider to be a success in practical, operational terms.

Shone (1998; p.69) draws parallels between the conception of some confer­ence centres and the example of the Lloyds Building in London, which Seasonality and periodicity of demand was lauded by architects for its design but was deeply unpopular with those who hadto work in it. Tactfully, he does not name names of conference centres whose design has a negative impact on conference proceedings, bur instead lists the types of problem encountered: rooms with no Seasonality and periodicity of demand natural light, low ceilings, stuffy atmospheres, confusing layouts and colour schemes 'that would shame a Nevada brothel'.

Shallcross (1998; p.B-45) suggests a further feature of conference centres occasionally neglected by their architects, to the despair of meeting planners:

An important factor which is sometimes overlooked is the value of medium Seasonality and periodicity of demand-sized breakout rooms (capacity 20-100 delegates). While a large hall is required for plenary sessions, these are often only used to capacity for a very small proportion of the total conference duration. The ability to break the total delegation into smaller groups quickly and easily is valued highly by professional conference Seasonality and periodicity of demand organisers.

A Hamburg-based meeting planner adds to the list of frequently encountered defi­ciencies as follows (Lau-Thurner, 2001; p.46):

Unfortunately, many venues forget that we need an average of at least five working rooms in addition to the actual function rooms: for speakers, the organiser, the Seasonality and periodicity of demand pro­gramme committee, the organisation team and, last but not least, the press. Added to which, at multilingual conferences, the interpreters also need a rest room.

Areas for accompanying exhibitions also come in for criticism: 'Foyer areas are often used for shows, but in many cases, they are also Seasonality and periodicity of demand required for coffee breaks. If they are too full of booths, delegates can find themselves uncomfortably cramped.' Finally, a consultant to the international meetings industry identifies what he considers to be some significant weaknesses of conference centre design. After crit­icising the near-uniformity of design of many such structures as Seasonality and periodicity of demand 'box-like stages within box-like constructions', he uses ample doses of humour to point out some serious shortcomings shared by many venues (Carey, 2001; p.48):

Low-rise conference centres make up in length for what they lack in height, so dele­gates can take three days to Seasonality and periodicity of demand move from one hall to another, and some may die of exhaustion en route. At the Ernest N. Morial Centre in New Orleans, the staff travel around by scooter and tricycle, to the envy of the trudging delegates. But my final salvo is aimed at architects who seem not to realise that Seasonality and periodicity of demand in our emancipated world, there are almost as many women attending conferences as men. It seems to me obvious that, as women take three times as long as men on routine ablutions, they need more toilets than men. Until centre designers wake up to this fact, long lines of Seasonality and periodicity of demand irritated and uncomfortable women will remain a feature of conventions.

It is clear thar a considerable gap exists between the aesthetic conception of some conference centres and the practical requirements of those who will use them (or not). Smith (1990; p.69) sums up the problem thus:

With Seasonality and periodicity of demand monotonous regularity, the design of our major conference facilities has changed during construction and even afterwards, leading to a general discontent with [he approach of architects to the realities of conference management. They areaccused of designing grandiose structures suitable for coffee table books, rather than researching to establish how Seasonality and periodicity of demand their buildings will be used in practice and thus to produce facilities truly suited to purpose.

Slightly more sympathetic to the architectural profession, Rogers (1998; p.8) suggests an alternative reason for the problem:

The challenge for those planning major, new purpose-built conference centres ... is to anticipate future demand accurately. Lead time Seasonality and periodicity of demand from the initial idea for a conference centre until its opening can be as much as 10 years. The process involves, inter alia, identification of a suitable site, design and planning stages, assembly of the funding package, construction of venue and related infrastructure, recruitment and training of staff. In such a Seasonality and periodicity of demand period, substantial changes in the wider marketplace may have occurred.

In the last few years, however, an increasingly experienced and professional approach to the commissioning of conference centres has evolved, with much more research and more consultation between meetings planners and conference centre designers than was the case several Seasonality and periodicity of demand decades ago. Much of the credit for this develop­ment is owed to the International Association of Congress Centres (known as the AIPC, from its French name, Association Internationale des Palais de Congres; www.aipc.org). Since its creation in 1958, this organisation, whose members are the Seasonality and periodicity of demand directors and managers of 115 of the world's leading conference centres, has worked to improve the way in which such venues are designed and equipped. Through its Technical Commission, the AIPC commissions and publishes studies and runs its own training courses on conference centre design.

The AIPC's mission Seasonality and periodicity of demand extends, however, beyond issues of conference centre design. For its members, it serves to improve their skills and knowledge in the fields of conference centre management and operation, marketing and environmental issues. It also provides them with an effective networking forum and lobbies actively on their behalf. For meetings planners Seasonality and periodicity of demand holding events in conference cen­tres that are members of the AIPC, the association provides a formal guarantee of high standards.

Another international association active in promoting conference centres is the Historic Conference Centres of Europe (HCCE) alliance (www.historic-centres.com). The very exclusive membership of the HCCE comprises 18 confer Seasonality and periodicity of demand­ence facilities housed in historic buildings, such as former monasteries and palaces, in 12 European countries. The alliance was set up in October 1996, and in May 1997 the members created a joint marketing organisation with a central database to promote their properties. To qualify as an HCCE member, a Seasonality and periodicity of demand conference centre must meet strict criteria:

• The building must be at least 100 years old, with state-of-the-art technology in all halls and meeting rooms.

• It must be located in a European city famous for its architectural heritage and cultural life. • It must be situated in or near the Seasonality and periodicity of demand city centre.

• It must be able to provide easy access to hotels, shops, restaurants and city life.

Such centres serve, for the main part, the low-volume, high-class segment of the meetings market, with buyers who want to profit from the special atmosphere of a historic Seasonality and periodicity of demand building. Members include the Hofburg Congress Centre in Vienna, a former imperial palace; the Popes' Palace International Congress Centre in Avignon, Europe's largest surviving medieval palace; Dublin Castle Conference Centre; Amsterdam's former stock exchange, the Beurs van Berlage; and the Conference and Exhibition Centre of Cordoba, a Moorish-style Seasonality and periodicity of demand monastery and infirmary with nine conference halls.

Based in Graz, Austria, the HCCE attracts new business for its members through its website and by exhibiting at major trade fairs such as the E1BTM. It also has a permanent sales office in the USA.

Academic venues

In the UK in Seasonality and periodicity of demand particular, academic venues, especially universities, have played a sig­nificant role in both stimulating and responding to the development of the meetings market, while earning vital income for educational establishments.

In the early 1970s, before most municipal conference centres were built or hotels had recognised fully the opportunities of Seasonality and periodicity of demand the meetings business, several universities actively began to market themselves as vacation conference venues (Paine, 1993). The 1980s were a period of considerable investment in upgrading facilities, accom­panied by an increase in levels of marketing activity.

Universities are built with 'learning spaces' - auditoria, lecture theatres, class­rooms Seasonality and periodicity of demand - which are highly suited to the meetings market. Moreover, during vacation periods, universities can offer residential conferences, making use of campus accommodation. Smith (1990; p.74) summarises the strengths and weaknesses of academic venues thus: 'Accommodation may be somewhat Spartan, the sleeping rooms may be less than five star, the plumbing may not be Seasonality and periodicity of demand quite post-Victorian, but the ambience is great and dinner in the Hall can be attractive with all the college's portraits on the wall - especially if the price is right, which it usually is.1

However, at least part of Smith's sketch is now thankfully outdated Seasonality and periodicity of demand. Truly Spattan conditions are becoming much rarer, as many universities have мейд considerable investment in upgrading student residences to a standard where they can be marketed competitively as comfortable residential conference accom­modation. Moreover, as Pemble (1998; p.55) points out, this constant cycle of upgrading and renovating means that the Seasonality and periodicity of demand students reap the rewards in term time. She gives the example of universities installing technology facilities in their halls of residence to make them more attractive to conference delegates, quoting a sales executive of Keele University Conference Park: 'All rooms at the university have ISDN lines and we hope Seasonality and periodicity of demand to have cable links as well by the end of the year.'Many educational establishments have taken measures to expand their confer­ence business fairly rapidly, making noticeable efforts to improve not only their facilities but also their standards of service and professionalism. Building on their success in this market, several Seasonality and periodicity of demand have also built conference facilities that oper­ate independently from the student facilities and run year round as management training centres.

Just how much academic venues have accomplished in the meetings market can be seen in the figures for investment, events and delegate numbers for a Seasonality and periodicity of demand wide range of educational institutions. In a typical year, the University of Warwick, in the heart of England, plays host to 60 000 delegates. In the year 2000, it was the venue for a conference at which Bill Clinton gave his last speech outside the USA as the American President, to an Seasonality and periodicity of demand audience of 1000, including staff from the White House, Downing Street, the security forces and the international press. In June 2001, the University of Durham embarked on a £1 million project to refurbish 15 lecture theatres with seating capacities of between 100 and 300, to be ready for conference bookings from March 2002.

Paine (1993) sums up Seasonality and periodicity of demand the advantages and disadvantages of academic venues in the UK:

Advantages Disadvantages
Nationwide locations, from Aberdeen to Exeter; many campus universities are set in beautiful grounds and in attractive parts of the country Lack of standard hotel amenities, such as direct-dial telephones, TV, alarm clocks; few twin-bedded rooms; cafeteria-style Seasonality and periodicity of demand catering
Architectural styles range from early medieval to modern, from traditional to purpose-built The extent of the campus is often disorienting and tiring for delegates; can be long walks between buildings.
Size and range of facilities: large halls for plenary sessions and lecture rooms, seminar rooms, etc Seasonality and periodicity of demand. for breakout sessions Only available during the 17 or 18 weeks of vacation; rules out the attractive periods of May, June and October
Learning environment: conducive to serious discussion
Technical support: audiovisual equipment and specialist technical support
Value for money
Total product: free on-site parking, accommodation, catering facilities, bars, спорт Seasonality and periodicity of demand facilities

Source: Paine, A. (1993), The university conference market', Insights, May.

Several of the advantages make universities particularly attractive to the associ­ation meetings market. Greenhill (2000) demonstrated that in the UK Conference Market Survey for that year, academic venues came second after hotel venues in popularity with associations. Shallcross Seasonality and periodicity of demand (1998; p.B-46) quotes data that suggestthat educational establishments are heavily dependent on trade from this market, especially for residential conferences:

This can be primarily attributed to the capacity of university venues to hold large numbers of delegates but is also related to the fact that university venues can add prestige to Seasonality and periodicity of demand an annual meeting of a company or an association at a competitive price ... On average, universities generate much lower revenue per delegate per day than venues such as hotels, but delegate volume tends to be much higher.

Plainly, the revenue that conferences earn is the main Seasonality and periodicity of demand motivation behind the involve­ment of academic institutions in this market. But Paine (1993) argues convincingly that as well as bringing financial benefits to a university, conferences and symposia can be seen as a legitimate extension of the university's core activity and purpose. They can, for example, create important links between the Seasonality and periodicity of demand university and the local community and industry. Despite the apparent tension between academic purpose and commercial use, he claims, universities have come to rely on conference business as a means of ensuring more efficient utilisation of buildings, continuity of employ­ment for domestic, catering and portering staff, and Seasonality and periodicity of demand contributing to overheads.

Marketing

Most universities have full-time trained staff running their conference business through dedicated conference offices, which are usually entirely separate from other academic activities. One example is Oxford University, which, in 1994, set up Conference Oxford, a conference marketing office offering assistance with enquiries on a choice of Seasonality and periodicity of demand 37 Oxford colleges and over 6000 rooms (Pemble, 1998). Academic venues in the UK have a long history of joint marketing. For 20 years, two consortia, BUAC and Connect Venues, successfully raised the profile of aca­demic venues in the meetings market, providing valuable marketing and central reservations services to their members. In Seasonality and periodicity of demand 2001, both organisations merged to form Venuemasters (www.venuemasters.co.uk), with over 100 members drawn principally from UK colleges and universities active in this market. Venuemasters provides a free venue-finding service based on the database of its members, and works to attract not only business tourists Seasonality and periodicity of demand but also leisure tourists with an interest in making use of university facilities during vacations. The organisation runs an annual trade show in London, the Venuemasters Exhibition, providing an event where meetings planners can do business with, and find out about, academic venues from locations all over the UK.


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