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GMR'S Meeting & Incentives: Partnerships for Enhanced Experiences

My team might vote me off the island if I mention COVID one more time. But, in the meetings and incentive world, the reverberations of the pandemic continue to live on—even if we’re all tired of talking about it.


We are not “going back to normal” rather, we are continually redefining and adapting to our new normal. I purposefully say “our” because this industry is a community, and it’s crucial for hotels and suppliers to work together. This has never been more evident than it is now as the meeting industry continues to rebuild. As the Sr. Account Director at GMR Marketing I bring over three decades of industry experience. However, in my current role managing incentive trips intended to celebrate the top echelon of our client’s sales team, I felt the obligation to not only meet but surpass any and all expectations.


With six incentive trips under my belt since events returned to face-to-face in 2022, I’m routinely sitting on the plane returning home and asking myself why this feels different? Why was this harder than it should have been? If we’re willing to acknowledge that COVID isn’t in the rearview, what can we do about it?


I’m not referring to how to adjust our budget forecasts, address supply chain issues, or even modify a timeline, although that is a good start. What I’m grappling with is that the events industry experienced a mass exodus as a result of COVID and for those of us left in it’s wake, we need to commit to bridging the gap particularly as it relates to staffing shortages or, when working alongside those that are new to the industry.

People + Communication = Partnership

People are behind everything we do and it’s the partnerships we establish that will determine if an event is successful. Building powerful relationships with hoteliers, planners and suppliers is how our guests walk away with a lasting impression. This desired outcome only works if we each commit to full transparency, get ahead of the curve, and have open and honest conversations.


In this spirit, I thought I was asking all the right questions for today’s meeting climate. What are your staffing ratios? Are all your outlets open and do they have the same hours? Are you offering room service? Is your spa fully up and running?


You can imagine the responses received. “Yes,” “yes,” and “yes.” So, we moved on feeling as though due diligence had been done. My lesson learned is that the questions I posed, while perhaps “on point,” were just the beginning of the conversation.

Ask the Right Questions

I discovered that there is follow up to the above questions and first, is acknowledging “I don’t expect you to be in the same space you were in before March of 2020. So, let’s talk about what’s different? What keeps you up at night? What are your shortfalls in service? How can we work together?” The goal is to uncover any potential obstacles before the event while there is time to address it.


Creating successful partnerships requires effort from hoteliers, planners, and suppliers, each of us committing to full transparency. Full transparency starts with a mutual understanding, a commitment to have each other’s back, a dose of empathy, and the desire to plan together.


Here are some tips to help establish and maintain successful collaborations:

Communicate Effectively and Consistently

At GMR, we establish routine cadence calls to discuss updates on event operations, challenges, and concerns. The goal is a spirit of “no surprises,” brainstorming solutions together.

Be Willing to be Flexible

Anyone working in the meetings industry must have the ability to quickly shift gears, and the ability to pivot was reinforced with the pandemic. An enhanced timeline will help create the space to exercise this notion should the need arise. Suppliers need to be forthcoming about all limitations and all possibilities, and if the communication is open and honest, a solution will be found.

Understand Each Other's Needs and Goals

Understanding each other's requirements, goals and obstacles is the key ingredient in creating a successful partnership. This will help avoid misunderstandings and ensure that both parties are clear on how we need to work toward achieving a shared vision.

A Real-World Example when adhering to the above, created a winning solution:

During a recent incentive trip, a hotel partner shared that their restaurant outlets were struggling with staffing levels and, due to union guidelines, the hours of operation were restricted. With over 1,000 guests onsite with our group alone, we needed several food outlets to meet the lunchtime rush. Working together, we opted to supplement the restaurant offerings with the banquet team providing grills at the pool, offering “grab and go” kiosks for a quick bite and extended the hours of these offerings to ensure guests had the time to enjoy the offering at their leisure. This helped to reduce the demand on the restaurants, thereby fixing the problem. Being flexible allowed us to think outside the box and achieve our desired results.


While the pandemic has brought significant challenges to the hospitality industry, it has also highlighted the importance of the relationships built between hoteliers, planners, and suppliers. To create successful partnerships, both parties must communicate effectively and often, understand each other's needs, and be adaptable.

Over three years later, and we are still in this together.