Hotel Online  Special Report


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Technology and Profitability in the Meetings Industry
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By Kelly Foy, December 2009

If the recent economic crisis has taught us anything, it’s that companies in the hospitality industry need to look hard at the way they operate. Steamlining expenditures has become the order of the day.

Today’s savviest companies are incorporating operating efficiencies and turning to technology to boost productivity and bottom-line results.

In the meetings industry, this trend has been under way for some time: A survey of planners a year ago** confirmed that for close to a third of those surveyed, more and better technology were seen as keys to doing their jobs better in the year ahead.  Additional data going back several years suggests that for a new generation of meeting planner, technology is not seen as aspirational  but is an integral element of productivity.

How many of the planners surveyed a year ago have made good on their new year’s resolution and utilized technology to its fullest?
The question is not merely academic.

In the area of online RFPs, for example, it’s clear that each year thousands of meeting professionals spend tens of thousands of hours visiting hotel website after hotel website, keying and rekeying details of their events, because every hotel website has a different RFP form. Few, if any of these sites, allow planners to attach their own documents; some ask only for the bare-bones information while others require too much for a first-time inquiry.

A few years back, the Convention Industry Council (CIC) and their Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) initiative took up the cause and set out to develop a standardized online RFP for the industry. 

The task has proved daunting, although everyone agrees that the ultimate objective is a critical one.

For time-pressured planners, the hours spent navigating the wildly varying terrain of online RFPs can be better spent planning, managing and executing bigger events, better events, and more of them. 

Today there are alternatives for managing RFPs online, including a product my own company recently introduced specifically to alleviate the problem of rekeying data, and more.

But the problem goes deeper than merely the use of this or that technology—or of no technology at all.

It lies in the zero-sum thinking that seems to underlie much of the decision making when it comes to how hotels and meeting planners interact and do business together.

For example, I have heard numerous times from meeting professionals that sourcing and booking hotels is a “relationship business,” one in which the human element is important.

And I agree.

But to leave it at that misunderstands the proper role of technology in the industry: It is not to replace human interaction . . .  but to help people do their jobs better, faster and more efficiently.

Using the latest and best technology does not replace the efforts of meeting professionals, hotel sales professionals, or even of third-party planners or hotel representation companies – it merely helps them interact better and more efficiently.

Returning to the example of online RFPs, it’s clear from the hotel management point of view that RFPs received in different forms means many hours spent keying and rekeying RFP information into sales management systems.  Oftentimes, the RFPs have critical information missing. The result is that hotel sales personnel are forced to chase down missing information — or risk losing substantial group business for lack of follow up.

The result of such inefficiencies prevents the meetings, events, and incentives industries, and the hotel industry alongside it, from fully realizing the Internet’s potential for bottom-line profits.

A first step toward achieving that profitability is becoming aware of the many emerging technologies that are being created to support the meeting professional and the hotels sales professional in doing their jobs better, and the communities that are quickly growing up to support those technologies.

A second step is opening oneself to the idea that technology is not the enemy of successful sales and relationship-building – it is their enabler.

Here’s hoping that 2010 brings a more successful year for the industry overall, with more revenues and more growth opportunities for everyone – and that those opportunities are magnified and leveraged, through the smart use of technology.

** “Planners Share Their Goals and Dreams for the New Year,” MeetingNews, December 15, 2008.


Kelly Foy is the CEO of Elite Meetings International, Inc., (www.EliteMeetings.com) based in Santa Barbara, CA. He can be contacted at kfoy@EliteMeetings.com.
 

 
Contact:

Michael Frenkel, MFC PR
michael@mfcpr.com
(212) 808-6556
 

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Also See: SpeedRFP™ is Introduced at the 2009 Motivation Show; Representatives of Elite Meetings International, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, APEX and the Meeting Planning Community Unveil a New, Commission-Free, Portable Online RFP System / September 2009
EliteMeetings.com Wins Gold in the 2009 Travel Weekly Magellan Awards / September 2009
Geoff Freeman of the U.S. Travel Association Will Deliver the Keynote Address at the Fall EMA, September 13-15; Elite Meeting Alliance (EMA) to Feature Leading Industry Speakers - Focus on Building Business in the Current Economic Climate/ August 2009
Getting Face Time at Trade Shows Just Became Easier Elite Meetings International Set to Partner with Top Meeting Industry Partners to Roll Out its FaceTime™ Appointment Scheduler at High-Traffic Shows / July 2009
Elite Meetings Alliance Brings Together Top Meeting and Hotel Professionals: Despite Challenging Times, Strong Interest in Meetings Reported / May 2009
EliteMeetings.com Goes Commission-Free / January 2009
Elite Meetings International Releases List of Five Top Renovated Resorts / September 2008
Elite Meetings International Announces Magazine Distribution Agreement with Hudson News at Major US Airports; Elite Meetings magazine to arrive on newsstands July 1 / June 2008
Elite Meetings International, Inc. debuts EliteMeetings.com version 2.0; New site release packs powerful, time-saving tools for planners to search, locate, and negotiate directly with luxury hotels / June 2008
Group Business, Education, and Networking Headline the Spring 2008 Elite Meetings Alliance; Top hoteliers and meetings planners succeed in booking group business at the Elite Meetings Alliance hosted by Elite Meetings International / April 2008
Elite Meetings International Announces the Acquisition of EliteMeetings.com; The purchase allows company to move forward on its long term vision / January 2008
EliteMeetings.net Takes Bronze in the 51st Annual Adrian Awards; Official Award Presentation by HSMAI to be January 28, 2008 at New York City's Marriott Marquis / December 2007
EliteMeetings.net to Launch First-Ever Online Community for the Luxury Meetings Market / November 2007
Elite Meetings International Welcomes Brad Pirman as CIO / October 2007
Group Business, Education and Networking Highlight the Fall 2007 Elite Meetings Alliance; Powerful Combination Delivers Successful Outcome / September 2007
Elite Meetings International Welcomes Susan Campbell to Top Editorial Post / August 2007
Elite Meetings International Opens Latin America & Caribbean Offices; Mauricio Aceves, Caroline Musy, and Renata Villa appointed to management team / July 2007
Elite Meetings International Announces Capital Investment from Jones Equity Partners; Company receives initial $2 million investment, backed by $5 million in revolving credit / July 2007
ELITE MEETINGS International Welcomes Thérèse Hilton as the Newest Member of the Team; The company states this is the first of many key hires in anticipation of exponential growth in 2007 and 2008 / June 2007
Elite Meetings International Launches New Magazine Showcasing North America's Top Hotels and Resorts for Meetings; Elite Meetings magazine, along with the newly launched Web site, are the ultimate resources for meeting and incentive planners / April 2007
Elite Meetings International Launches First-of-its-kind Website, Setting a New Standard for Meeting and Event Planning; Extensive database of North America's top resorts and hotels establishes a one-stop-shop for planning professionals / April 2007
Sundance Prepares for the Elite Meetings Alliance; Event unites top meeting and incentive planners with hotels and resorts for a one of a kind face-to-face business meeting experience / February 2007
Luxury Hoteliers and Corporate Planners Rave About the ELITE MEETINGS ALLIANCE; Next Alliance, Scheduled for March 19-21, 2007, at Utah's Sundance Resort / October 2006
Top-tier Incentive/meeting Planners and Hospitality Executives Join Elite Meetings Advisory Board; Magazine Featuring Best Properties to Launch in 2007 / October 2006
Top-tier Incentive/meeting Planners and Hospitality Executives Join Elite Meetings Advisory Board, Magazine to Launch in 2007 / September 2006
Top Corporate Meeting and Incentive Planner, Luxury Hotelier Gathering in September Has a Few Remaining Openings / August 2006
Hoteliers and Corporate Planners Give High Marks to Inaugural Elite Meetings Alliance; Next Alliance scheduled for September 10-12, 2006, at The Club at Hammock Beach in Florida / May 2006
Hoteliers and Corporate Planners Give High Marks to Inaugural Elite Meetings Alliance; Next Alliance scheduled for September 10-12, 2006, at The Club at Hammock Beach in Florida / May 2006

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