Effectively running a hotel is no small job: Between managing operations, engaging guests, marketing to prospective travelers, driving new revenue streams, mitigating staff turnover and staying ahead of tech trends, hoteliers have their work cut out for them.
The industry, especially as of late, has erupted with talk of mobile functionality, a more personalized guest experience and exciting technology platforms on the horizon — industry-wide shifts to empower the on-going success and longevity of modern hotels. However, if there is one segment that is often overlooked in terms of its revenue-generating potential, it’s group and corporate bookings.
While leisure travelers often steal the spotlight within hotels’ sales strategies, it’s incredibly important to remember that meetings generated 300 million room nights in 2016 and nearly $50 billion in spending on guest rooms. Those room nights were equivalent to 25 percent of the total room nights of U.S. hotels as estimated by STR Inc. Not only does the group booking segment represent a major revenue opportunity, but it’s demand also doesn’t adhere to the seasonal fluctuations of leisure travel. Whether it’s off-season or high-season for leisure travelers, corporate meetings and events will represent a constant stream of demand for venue space and potential revenue for your hotel.
With this in mind, we have to consider the way in which the corporate and group booking segment has been largely neglected — that is, until now.
Group inquiries are often a robust process set within a limited time-frame (events are always fast approaching in the corporate and social calendar), and therefore require robust technology to support that demand. In the past, hotels have relied on manual processes and staff to stay on top of group booking inquiries. With no sufficient online tools or platform to own and effectively sell this segment, Sales Managers were left to sift through a never-ending barrage of RFPs and inquiries, in a perpetual game of catch-up.
Any sales team knows that selling effectively requires being proactive rather than reactive, so it’s no surprise that the group and events segment has finally earned the makeover it’s needed for so long. After all, hotels need the ability to respond quickly if they want to win business and stop leaving so much money on the table with an antiquated, ineffective booking approach.
A Platform to Empower Flexibility
In the recent IACC Meeting Room of the Future research series, 47 percent of meeting planners state that flexible meeting space is more critical today than in the past to deliver programs that resonate with today’s attendees. This means that planners need access to a variety of venue and amenity details before they can even consider booking a space. After all, they don’t just need any space — they need to find the right space.
In the past, this would have lead to a long, underwhelming list of potentially unqualified RFP’s and email inquiries. However, utilizing an online booking platform designed specifically for group bookings and meeting/event space, planners finally have access to all the information they need before proceeding to the next step. Hotels can share live availability of venue rooms, property rules and limitations, amenities, special offers, virtual tours and so much more. This enhances the vetting process in a way that could truly transform the group booking segment while empowering hotels to sell their venue space in an effective, streamlined manner.
Digital World = Digital Demands
The events and meetings landscape has changed drastically over the years, as the hospitality industry continues to evolve technologically. The event planning process has, as a result, gone digital as well — meaning that most modern planners are notably tech-savvy and engaged with digital platforms. They expect a booking experience that is as efficient and visual as a leisure travel booking experience, allowing them to make decisions and receive confirmations in a quick, informed manner.
Utilizing an online platform not only caters to the likes of prospective planners but also enables hotels to better highlight the features of their hotel and venue space. This includes free Wi-Fi, photographs and virtual tours of conference rooms, outdoor activities, group-specific packages, unique venue layouts and so much more. Not only that but utilizing a cloud-based platform ensures your data is always protected, updated and available to your sales team, as well as event coordinators.
Capitalizing on Revenue Opportunities Both Big and Small
As we know, the traditional influx of inquiries and RFPs left hotel’s sales teams spread too thin, unable to respond effectively in a timely manner. As a result, teams often prioritized more substantial, more profitable event inquiries ahead of smaller bookings.
With an online group booking portal working alongside the focused efforts of your sales team, your hotel can finally tap into every revenue opportunity — regardless of size. Rather than smaller meetings (which can cumulatively represent a large segment of business) getting delayed or ignored due to manual processes, your team can now efficiently sort through all applicable booking requests.
Simply stated, it’s time for hotels to expect more from their sales and catering technology. Utilizing a next-generation platform that: allows for direct online group bookings, eliminates manual RFPs, leverages data, automates marketing, and enhances communications. Hotels can finally enhance revenue performance and drive group business in an exciting way. That is the future of group and events booking, and the future is now.
About the Author
Lauren Hall is the award-winning Founder and Chief Executive Officer of iVvy / www.ivvy.com.au
Lauren is a passionate entrepreneur with more than 25 years' business management experience at Executive and Board level, successfully building multiple companies from startup to strategic and financial exit. With a background in programming, accounting and marketing, Lauren’s expertise spans manufacturing, retail, advertising and technology industries in both South Africa and Australia.
Since its 2009 launch, Lauren has overseen iVvy’s continued growth and global expansion to New Zealand, Asia, Europe and North America.
Ernst & Young recognized Lauren as a future global leader of industry through the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women Asia-Pacific program. Lauren has also won 4 prestigious Global Stevie Awards for Best New Product, Entrepreneur of the Year, Innovator of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year (Asia Pacific). She has been awarded the Queensland iAwards for Best Innovation in the Digital Economy, as well as Gold Coast’s Business Woman of the Year, Innovator of the Year and was presented with the Gold Coast Mayor’s Award for Innovation.