As the economy continues to improve, so does the suburban hospitality industry and that could mean some bargains for those coming to the area for business or leisure, according to anecdotal information from the Chicago Business Travel Association.
Whether it was with the Ryder Cup or upcoming Fashion, Jewelry and Accessories Convention, the Franchise & Business Expo or various corporate meetings, hospitality officials have seen increasing demand for area hotels for the first time in several years and that's expected to continue. And much of that booking at area hotels and meeting venues have been last minute for both the city and suburbs, said association President Max Schroeder.
"If business and leisure travelers have flexibility with their travel dates, there are still some very good deals to be had," said Schroeder.
The biggest trend association members have seen is the booking of trips much closer to their travel dates, he said.
"In some cases, this can be positive for the consumer as last minute travel deals can save them money," Schroeder said. "The challenge is with occupancy levels rising in the airline and hotel industries, waiting too long can create some availability issues."
The hospitality industry, including in the suburbs, are continuing to recover after a tough recession. And while hotels, restaurants, meeting rooms, and other related services may not have yet returned to those heydays during 2006-08, there is still upward movement here, experts said.
And for those on the front line of event planning, the self-contained, outside suburban venue has become more popular, said Schaumburg-based Total Event Resources, a meeting and event planning company that produces events for Fortune 1000 companies, has been arranging more outdoor terrace and other outside venues that are self-contained.
Total Event Resources has organized and held many local events at Danada House in Wheaton, Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Cunio Mansion in Vernon Hills, Lake Forest Academy and Brookfield Zoo, said Kathy Miller, CEO of Total Event Resources.
"Our suburban corporate clients love the Danada House because of it's quiet, rural setting that comes with rich beauty and history," said Miller. "We have held many leadership events, meetings, dinner events and more at this location. From an event planner stand point, the house is flexible and allows you to bring in your own decor, caterers and audio/visual when desired but truly the house has so much of it's own character not much is usually needed from a decor standpoint."
The so-called self-contained areas are those where events are created in a specified space. Miller said her firm takes a space and then enhances it to create the event.
Miller said she's also has seen clients change their annual meeting to an 18-month or 2-year cycle.
"And we are doing more events within an event, if that makes sense," Miller said.
"In other words, we may be doing one large event for a corporation and then there are offshoots of that large event wanting to do smaller divisional events before, during or after the main event."
Miller also has seen many clients "wait it out." One recent client with a December event said they still weren't sure if they would do it or not.
"They also know that they can call on us at the last minute and we can pull it all together with shorter lead time," Miller said.
Also, the travel industry is very confident that the remainder of 2012 will continue to be good. After all, bargains are still available, said Ric Mandigo, senior consultant with T.R. Mandigo & Co. in Elmhurst.
"There are still bargains to be found for those acquiring existing hotels on the business side, while for consumers, there are still plenty of bargains to be had, though prices are going up."