Hotels evolve meeting capabilities to support hybrid event needs

Hyatt Regency Sydney
  • A mix of broadcast studios and on-demand technology for transformable venues is being offered
  • Hybrid events drive F&B and accommodation earnings
  • Hotels may retain hybrid event-ready capabilities into the foreseeable future

Broadcasting studios and technical capabilities to support online/in-person events are diffusing into the hotel arena, beyond specialist venue operators like convention centres, as hybrid events grow in popularity.

Both Marriott International and Hilton claim that most of their hotels in Asia-Pacific are now hybrid event-ready.

Marriott International has a collection of hotels – such as JW Marriott Singapore South Beach and The Westin Singapore – with permanent hybrid event-ready studios while the rest are capable of transforming venues upon request and with support from trusted and experienced third-party vendors.

All hybrid event-ready Marriott International properties are equipped with a broadband connection that facilitates smooth transmission and a suite of “unique technological features” that allow planners to enliven their production, such as with gamification engagement modules to draw the audience, shared Ramesh Daryanani, vice president, global sales, Asia Pacific.

Citing Studio Britannia at JW Marriott Singapore South Beach as an example, Ramesh said the venue is equipped with state-of-the-art production facilities, along with an on-site production crew, ultra-high-speed connectivity, teleprompters and digital broadcast cameras. Planners can broadcast in real-time across multiple meeting rooms or from the grand ballroom while streaming the event online for remote participants.

While Hilton properties do not have dedicated hybrid event studios, existing function spaces are equipped with solutions to support hybrid event production. Through Hilton EventReady Hybrid Solutions, a programme launched earlier this year, event planners are guided towards hybrid event-ready hotels and given access to planning resources under the company’s proprietary Hilton EventReady Playbook.

Richard Myerscough, Hilton’s vice president of sales, Asia Pacific, told TTGmice that hybrid event-ready hotels must have a minimum amount of incremental and available bandwidth that is above and beyond the hotel’s average circuit utilisation level, and they must pass an evaluation to ensure they meet the needs of small hybrid events.

Qualified hotels also partner with specialist event production companies to offer event technology packages created for small hybrid events. At the same time, heavy investments have been made into staff training to ensure they are in tune with current event needs.

A highlight of Hilton EventReady Hybrid Solutions is the availability of a single contract, multi site provision, which enables planners to book the in-person portion of their event at various hybrid event-ready Hilton properties under one contract. Myerscough said this feature was borne out of the desire to put planners’ mind at ease.

Presently, the newest hybrid event-friendly kid on the block is Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, which showed off its solutions in April this year.

However, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts is not late to the game. Hyatt Regency Sydney was among the first hotels in Asia-Pacific to alter existing event capabilities to answer to the growing demand for online and broadcasting facilities when international meetings were disrupted by the pandemic. In partnership with audiovisual and event technology company Encore, it converted two of its meeting rooms into a high-spec broadcast studio in November 2020. The Heritage Studio features a green screen room offering broadcast-quality streaming capabilities alongside a control room that comes equipped with audio-visual equipment to provide turnkey solutions to connect attendees and speakers around the globe. Encore’s ImmersiveXR technology can also be incorporated to create engaging virtual sets.

With Encore’s expertise, Hyatt Regency Sydney can also support online events hosted anywhere else in the hotel.

These hardware and technical support are part of Hyatt Hotels & Resorts’ new Hybrid Meeting Offer, which promises hybrid event-friendly solutions “neatly bundled and centrally billed” for the convenience of planners requiring activities across multiple Hyatt venues, said Kate Atkinson, regional vice president – sales & marketing for Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia.

Reputed in the events industry for delivering outstanding live experiences, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts have worked emotional and mental well-being into the heart of the Hybrid Meeting Offer. Where in-person events are possible, the hotel’s creative events teams can coordinate unique well-being experiences, such as gong sound baths and percussion therapy, designed to break the ice and/or energise guests.

Good business generator
Since introducing the Hybrid Meeting Offer, Hyatt Regency Sydney has hosted a number of successful pan-regional hybrid events for large and medium-sized conferences, including fully virtual conferences, company annual general meetings, multi-city hybrid events, product launches, training seminars and pre-recordings for use at events or for online distribution.

These hybrid events generate further revenue for the hotel through catering and accommodation usage, said Atkinson.

“Many (events also conclude with) networking in the hotel’s popular bars and restaurants,” she added.

Atkinson described virtual events as a “lifeline for events in the midst of current restrictions and they will be a key component of events during the transition back to normal life and beyond”.

Over at Hilton properties, the ability to support hybrid events has earned them incremental revenue through F&B – not just from onsite catering but also home delivery for remote event attendees.

Myerscough said there has been an encouraging rise in interest and bookings from event planners since kicking off its hybrid-event-ready concept.

“Just earlier this year, we hosted a 30-person hybrid meeting for a technology company in Beijing,” he shared. “In April, we will serve as the main hub in Japan for a larger scale hybrid meeting, connecting to eight other locations and streaming live to more than 500 delegates. A sizeable hybrid event will also be hosted in one of our hotels in Singapore later this month.”

While acknowledging that meetings business continues to be impacted by the pandemic, Myerscough said the Hilton EventReady Hybrid Solutions will at least allow his properties to “remain relevant and competent to capture a strong share of virtual and hybrid event demand”.

Taking cue from demand
Ramesh is confident that the demand for hybrid events will only continue to intensify, especially as governments relax their restrictions on activities. The company has observed “high interest across the region”, and some of the events hosted at these hybrid event-ready facilities are senior leadership meetings in India and Australia.

Having seen a growing number of hybrid event enquiries in Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts is now looking into the possibility of converting existing space into hybrid broadcasting studios at more hotels, Atkinson told TTGmice.

Ramesh: Marriott International’s roll out of hybrid meeting packages and transformation of spaces to hold hybrid events are varied across markets as each had different needs

“We anticipate expectations and needs for meeting and event formats to continue to evolve, and we are equipped and ready to adapt to new formats and client preferences,” she said.

When asked if Hyatt Regency Sydney’s Heritage Studio would be a permanent facility, Atkinson said it would continue to be on offer as demand dictated. However, the hotel has no plans to create more hybrid event-ready studios, as the demand for larger format, face-to-face events is growing as movement restrictions ease across Australia.

“Trends are showing that hybrid events with streaming capabilities will continue to be in demand while international travel restrictions remain, but domestically there is pent up demand for people to meet face-to-face again when safe to do so, so they predict in-person will be first choice with virtual being an extension/ back up offering,” she explained.

In tackling the same question, Myerscough expects Hilton hotels to continue offering hybrid solutions for the “foreseeable future”.

The “guest-centric innovation in Hilton’s DNA” will lead the company to keep evolving its products and services to cater to new demands, he said.

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