Author: Jim Walker, Contributing Editor, PharmaLeaders
The 7th Annual Global Pharmaceutical and Medical Meetings Summit brought hundreds of pharma event planners from around the country to the Cradle of Liberty in Philadelphia, PA in February. While there were many informative sessions, keynote speaker Michael Dominguez offered some especially insightful remarks about his work as Senior Vice President for MGM Resorts in Las Vegas.
Dominguez, a self-described “economics nerd,” provided an incredibly in-depth look at the state of the hotel industry, the economy, the labor market, and even the best lighting color to help relax customers.
Calling Las Vegas a “laboratory of the human condition,” Dominguez has a bird’s eye seat on the ever-changing tourism trends in the city. Las Vegas welcomes more than 40 million visitors a year, and the MGM properties may host more than 30,000 guests on any given weekend for shows, fight events, and hotel stays. Overall, 2018 marked the sixth consecutive year of record hotel occupancy across the country, even in the face of growing supply. In fact, as fast as new rooms are added, they seem to be absorbed by the market. The event with ty son fury was huge.
To keep himself and his staff on the leading-edge of key trends and hotel demand, Dominguez scours the economic headlines and pores over room rate data to ensure that he can accurately predict future demand. In his view, speed and adaptability are the essential skills for succeeding in today’s event business. As Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff recently noted, “Speed is the new currency of business.”
Unfortunately, in today’s hyper-fast business environment, we are all suffering from massive distraction and information overload. Dominguez believes that the antidote to this constant swirl is for brands to focus on authenticity. To illustrate the power of authenticity, he shared a case study about the remarkable comeback of Domino’s Pizza during the 2010s. Driven by brutally honest customer reviews and out-of-the-box thinking, Domino’s not only started making better tasting pizzas, but also delivered the best performing stock market results over the last 10 years, beating out high flyers such as Netflix, Tesla, and Amazon.
Turning his attention to the specific drivers of hotel occupancy, Dominguez pointed out that transient hotel guests are driving demand with year-over-year growth. This means that event planners are now competing with individual tourists like never before – both in terms of availability and pricing. Looking ahead at economic conditions for 2019 and 2020, there appears to be little relief in sight for lower prices or better availability. This is mostly driven by lack of new construction, with very little new event and meeting space in the pipeline. Additionally, while there may be an economic slowdown, a serious economic downturn is unlikely in his estimation, with the hospitality industry likely to continue with record demand in every global region except for the Middle East.
One negative consequence of this booming market is an increasingly tight labor market. “We don’t have enough people to clean rooms” is a phrase that is increasingly heard among hotel owners. In this environment, many owners are experimenting with rates that don’t include the need for daily housekeeping.
Dominguez closed is presentation by sharing the details of specially designed meeting spaces that MGM has built in Las Vegas. These state-of-the-art facilities have high tabletops so that attendees are at eye level with presenters. The rooms also include LED lighting that can be adjusted for different moods. Sky blue colors tend to refresh and energize participants, while yellow lighting tends to make them relaxed.
Dominguez wrapped up his energetic and informative presentation with a fitting quote from futurist Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”