Meeting the Future

Interview with Peggy Fang Roe, Asia Pacific chief sales & marketing officer at Marriott International

Could you give us a brief introduction of Marriott’s promotion campaigns in the China MICE market?

We are just in the process of testing new products for the meetings market, as Marriot shared at the GBTA (Global Business Travel Association) meeting. Our campaign is focused on the “future of meetings”, on how we think meeting design should evolve, and we have an initiative about how we design the space – the way we wish to change the ballrooms, pre-function spaces for the future. We also have a website that is being tested now called ‘meetings imagined’. So this is our idea on how to design better meeting experiences, which is not just the same thing as providing lunch or breaks every single time.


Marriott recently rolled out the “Future of Meetings” as one of the signature innovations. Where did you draw the concept inspiration from?

As we started to study why people have meetings, we found out that there are several basic reasons for business people to have meetings – either for training purposes, promoting products or making decisions. As we started to hear people talk about meetings, we learned that meetings are actually very important to these customers with strategic purposes in mind. But currently, meetings are nearly the same everywhere and tend to be highly transactional. That’s why we started to think about how Marriott could help companies have meetings or design meetings that are more based on the key purpose. Meetings are very important to our overall business. And meetings are actually the way that we introduce our hotels to new guests all the time. It is a great customer introduction. So we value the importance of meetings. We have been thinking it for a long time over how we do meetings differently from our peers.


Could you elaborate on the “Future of meetings” campaign?

The new intuitive involves space design, event design, and technology. We have been studying the planners as they are interfacing with hotels. We try to map out the planner journey, from the moment they have a need for a meeting all the way through to how they search, how they book, how they plan and design the meeting to even the bill-paying afterwards. So when you look at that process, we identify many opportunities, and we call it pinpoints in that process. For example, when they are on site and have a meeting and they need something, they have to find someone to help them. With today’s technology, everybody uses apps. So we now have an app that we are now testing called RED COAT DIRECT that connects you and your red coat person. I can sit at the meeting and ask anything that I need without leaving the meeting. So we know there is common request around -more coffee and chairs, changing the break time, refilling and etc.


What are the key elements to ensure a satisfying MICE experience for conference attendees?

For the attendees, our surveys show that they talk a lot about food, actually. That is one interesting thing we have seen – people care about the food experience. So we’re trying to design more meeting spaces that have incorporated culinary experiences. They care a lot about the environment they are sitting in as well - the seating, lighting and temperature, which are quite basic but the top important things. You know anything that is uncomfortable, it makes very difficult to pay attention. When you are comfortable, it makes a difference.


How much is the MICE industry expected to grow in the next few years in Chinese cities?

The MICE industry has been growing between 10% to 15% year-on-year for the last five plus years. And there is certainly no slowing down in the MICE segment. As China grows, MICE will grow. Everybody needs to meet. There are a lot of companies coming to China to do business, and a lot of education and celebration that needs to take place. Western companies are very interested in doing business overseas, especially in destinations such as Japan, Singapore, China and Korea. So that’s really encouraging to us. It does not surprise to us, but is really exciting.