For over three decades, Scottsdale Resort & Conference Center has been hosting regional and national groups with turnkey meeting packages. Jerry Jensen, director of sales & marketing, says his property is unmatched in that regard, delivering excellent value and convenience to corporate meeting planners.
We spoke with Jensen to see what trends are unfolding in the meetings and events market, and how his team offer the complete Arizona meetings package.
Prevue: Jerry, can you give us an overview of the group product at Scottsdale Resort?
Jerry Jensen: Scottsdale Resort for many years, going on 36 years now, has been primarily an inclusive package resort for meetings. It was such the case for many, many years up until the mid-2000s, that all this place did was corporate group meetings that wanted inclusive packages.
We’ve diversified over the last 10 years, but still it’s a big part of our business and it’s unique in the market. There’s no one else in Scottsdale that offers that particular product.
During the downturn, we started opening up to planners who didn’t want the inclusive packages. So we’ve come a long way in that respect, although I will tell you that 90% of our group business still consists of package business. And we’ve been able to convert non-corporate, education and association planners over to the package concept because it provides a particular value proposition.
Prevue: Can you expand on what those packages offer?
Jensen: One of the things we like to do with groups is offer a branding package. For instance, Hershey comes here every summer and we put their logo and their brands all over the place. We put them it in Gobo lights, we put it in strips on the floor, the front desk agents are wearing their logo items. The branding of the resort is a very popular thing for groups that tend to do buyouts, and then we can just brand the heck out of it.
The other thing we do that is very distinct, from every other resort in the state at least, is we have a vast inventory of set decorations that were custom built for this resort. We have outdoor spaces where we can create an Old West town, or create a theme around Mardi Gras or a Spanish flamenco night. They’re massive sets that look like they came off a back lot of Warner Brothers.
If you go to a resort these days and want that kind of stuff, you have to hire an off-property set decorating company to come in. But we have all of that here, sized correctly to be used in our spaces. So we can do things with those sets that completely transform an event that the group will always remember, and yet they didn’t have to pay near what they would at another resort to do that.
Prevue: And that’s priced per person?
Jensen: Yes, per person pricing, it’s a full package that includes all meals. Oftentimes we find we need to flex a little bit because the group will say they want one night to do a dine-around in Scottsdale, or they want to create a dinner in the desert. So we’ll customize the package and pricing so they can do that.
Prevue: What are the primary takeaways for planners?
Jensen: It’s a very easy way for planners to get a major event tied up and not have to worry about a lot of details. And it’s pretty cost effective. We have an arrangement where they can either book the conference buffet indoors, or we can do a cookout for them. But because we’ve leveraged the cost of the labor and setup over a number of groups, it costs them less money.
So it does provide an exceptional value, and it’s very easy for them, which at the end of the day is what Benchmark built its reputation on. We’re probably the best, in all candor, in Benchmark at selling meeting packages. It’s a great thing for the resort and the planner.
Prevue: Are you seeing a rise in technology demand among your groups?
Jensen: Absolutely. Where you see a lot of that is in the technology field, of course, both in terms of pure technology, but also segments like medical technology. When you have important meetings talking about the latest tech in their fields, oftentimes they’ll have people doing research anywhere in the world who are teleconferenced into that group. And then the folks here will spend a couple days in breakouts rehashing and studying that education.
We just had Microsoft in-house, and besides not wanting to see any Apple products, they required a lot of technological apparatus that we needed to be able to provide, along with having the right bandwidth and the necessary technicians on staff. We have a lot of those meetings involving video technology.
Technology is certainly the trend on everyone’s mind. And I will tell you, in my experience in the 33 years I’ve been doing this, technology always moves faster than the capability of the industry to incorporate it. Even our social groups and weddings are requesting more and more technology in their events to heighten the entertainment value.
Prevue: How is Scottsdale Resort adapting to the rise in multi-generational meetings and different acceptance levels of technology?
Jensen: That’s still something planners are struggling with. With the Millennials it’s all about the mobile technology, their lives revolve around that. But you see planners making efforts to actually get their people educated to using those devices more and more because it makes their job a lot easier. They can communicate a lot faster.
And we participate in that as well with the mobile site we launched last year, which is still in beta test. The planners are grasping onto that, because it can help educate the more senior members of their audience to get used to using their devices.
Prevue: Do you see some groups who manage the varying degrees of tech buy-in well?
Jensen: Enable, a big technology group in Canada, had a diversity of age groups but the older people seemed to be more adept at using mobile technology than we’ve seen. They worked very closely with our staff, and incorporated a ton of tech in their meeting. Not only the mobile technology, but we had some pretty serious videoconferencing going on. They had extreme bandwidth needs, and they’re coming back to us because we could meet their needs.
The thing with technology, whether people are dragging their heels kicking and screaming, or they’re diving in head first, we’re all going to have to get there sooner or later. So the more we make technology accessible to the planner, the more they’re gong to latch on to that and make that a buying decision.