The coronavirus pandemic hit the hospitality and events industry hard, forcing all those who work in it to creatively rethink the processes they have always known. Natalie Thomas, Founder and Events Director at MTG Hospitality, was one of those individuals who had to put her thinking cap on and look at new ways to drive business in the given circumstances.

As both an event planner and representative of her venues, Thomas provides a unique perspective for both corporate and social events. We chatted with Thomas to learn more about MTG Hospitality, how she pivoted her business during the pandemic, and what she predicts for the events industry in the rest of 2021.

1. Give us a background on MTG Hospitality. What venues does MTG represent in a pre-pandemic world? What event programs has MTG created?

MTG Hospitality was started five years ago from our passion for creating memorable events and our deep understanding of unique venues. Pre-pandemic, we worked with several corporate clients managing their meetings and with four unique venues managing their events.

After the 2020 hit to the industry, our corporate clients canceled their meetings, and only one of the unique venues was able to open and host events. That venue is the 446 acres of outdoor green space in northeast Washington, D.C., The United States National Arboretum.

We leaned into the microwedding trend and created affordable and accessible wedding packages for couples wanting to celebrate their wedding safely. And it has been a success!

2. What have you learned about yourself and MTG Hospitality, the event industry, and the hospitality community over the past year?

I learned patience, adaptability, and that I do not hate wedding events! I once had the corporate meeting planner mindset that weddings were an inferior event. However, the wedding event industry kept going during the pandemic and created programs to keep our vendors — and myself — working.

The Washington, D.C., hospitality community came together over the past year, in big thanks to the D.C. Event Coalition. They scheduled bi-monthly industry calls and monthly venue calls. I met venue managers that I would have thought of as my competition, but today I think of them as some of my closest friends.

3. The trend for intimate microweddings is something that you have embraced with your clients throughout the pandemic. Tell us about the most rewarding moments that have come out of these smaller gatherings?

At the core of our business is our passion for creating memorable moments through events, and microweddings in a pandemic are the very definition of memorable. People had been isolated for so many months, and they were able to come together in a safe and friendly space to see and celebrate their loved ones. It was also rewarding to see how we can get back to work, and the excitement and happy guests reminded us that people love gathering and will return to it as soon as we are fully open.

4. Tell us about your experience using Tripleseat. How does Tripleseat help you streamline the event management process while planning events? Were certain features extra beneficial given the circumstances over the past year?

I could not do my job if I didn’t use Tripleseat. The ability to quickly track sales, results, client information and easily share documents with colleagues is crucial to managing not just one venue but multiple venues. The ability to track emails and create tasks was highly beneficial the past year.

During the slow time, I was able to work with my Tripleseat account manager and create custom fields that have changed how we create facility reports for the venue itself. I have no idea why it took me four years to do that, but I am thankful now!

5. What do you predict the rest of 2021 to look like for MTG Hospitality and the wedding industry?

I predict that corporate events will stay in a hybrid format and that social events will continue to grow in popularity and demand. Smaller and intimate weddings will stay, but I also see a trend for large anniversary celebrations. From the corporate perspective, I predict large corporate events like client picnics and appreciation events later in the year. The pandemic made our industry get very creative, and it will continue to inspire more creativity.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of Seated magazine.

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