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[Excerpt] American businesses spent over $100 billion in 1997 on business meetings, conferences, and training programs. To meet this demand, hotels and conference centers have made large investments in developing and enhancing meeting space. Competition for the meeting and convention business has tightened, particularly with the emergence of such markets as Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Orlando as viable alternatives to the traditional major-city locations. The meeting business is further pressed by technologies such as distance learning and interactive multimedia. In addition, customers are becoming more concerned with the effectiveness of meetings, and are taking steps to ensure that the money invested in specific programs is well spent.

Increased competition and more-demanding customers mean that careful consideration must be given to the facilities and services provided during meetings, conferences, and training programs. The purpose of the study discussed in this article is to identify the physical and service-related characteristics of properties that may have an important impact on program and meeting effectiveness. The results should enhance the understanding of the factors customers use to evaluate the quality of the products and services that are offered by hotels and conference centers, and provide guidance for redesigning facilities and revamping services.


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