Magazine article New Zealand Management

Chain Reactions: How Competition Is Driving Change: What Does It Take to Run a Market-Leading Venue in 2005? and What Are the Issues Facing Our Top Managers at These Venues?

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Chain Reactions: How Competition Is Driving Change: What Does It Take to Run a Market-Leading Venue in 2005? and What Are the Issues Facing Our Top Managers at These Venues?

Article excerpt

These days it's not enough to offer comfortable seats, stylish food and a pretty view outside the window. Venue managers aim to provide not just a list of individual attributes but a holistic experience to clients. They know that repeat business comes from offering a total package, with superb business facilities, accommodation and an enticing environment, summer or winter.

According to Alan Trotter, CEO Conventions & Incentives New Zealand, the conventions and incentives business contributes about $1 billion to our economy. Of this figure, 75 percent is domestic business, so it's no surprise there's a vested interest in keeping customers happy within New Zealand.

The key drivers for change in today's market revolve around competition--both among destinations and venues. Franz Mascarenhas, marketing director at Hyatt Regency Auckland, says he responds by marketing collectively as a city at trade shows and uses individual sales presentations that begin with a destinational sell prior to one on the hotel's facilities.

Clearly there is a growing expectation of high standards of product and service at very competitive pricing. "There is an increasing need for the sales team to be price/value driven in client negotiations," says Mascarenhas. "Ultimately, clients are willing to pay, provided the perception of accompanying value is clearly understood. We need to be clear about where we see ourselves positioned in the market place and target clientele that are discerning yet profitable. In today's context, customers are looking for more than just a conference venue--they are looking for the complete experience."

No doubt Hyatt's recently completed $65 million upgrade including new residence suites and banquet spaces, a 25-metre lap pool, spa and gym help to lure clients.

Managers also need to balance the need for staff retention with people's desire to gain a diverse range of experiences at different venues. Being part of an international hotel company can have a particular advantage here as staff can move around different hotels within the same company. "One of the advantages of being part of an international hotel company is the ability to provide good succession planning for our staff, as well as mentoring so that we are able to retain within the company all our high performers," says Mascarenhas.

Maintaining quality of service to customers while running cost-effective operations means that managers at leading conference centres and seminar venues must provide ongoing staff training. The key aspect for staff is to be flexible with guest requests and to display a 'can do' attitude. "Part of our professionalism on display includes our ability to be able to assist a conference organiser with the overall planning of the function. Ensuring profitability through cost-efficient operations is also a critical control of wastages and sharp rostering all add up to the overall efficiency of the operation," says Mascarenhas.

Continuing to fund the right areas is another crucial aspect to maintain quality of service to customers while keeping operations cost-effective. Dean Newell, general manager at Wairakei Resort, says: "It never ceases to amaze me that when seeking to reduce costs the first two areas that many managers will look to are sales and marketing, and human resources. In an effort to improve profitability they chop away at the obvious. It's as if they think: 'Let's get fewer people here and have staff that can't provide adequate levels of customer care to those guests that remain.'

"In allocating greater resources to the development of staff, and thereby improving the levels of customer care provided, improvements in profitability will become evident," says Newell, adding "but only if the allocation of these resources is focused on a specific outcome."

Newell also stresses the need for senior managers to have a working knowledge of the venue's operations over which they are responsible although "they do not need to be technical experts in every aspect of the operation, hence the title general manager. …

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