By Lauren Hall
The emergence and subsequent evolution of transformative, industry-shaping technology cannot happen without some disruption. It’s a now-familiar scenario, when we reference the likes of Uber and Airbnb, in which a brave new player comes into the mix to offer a service or product that does things in a way that no one else has (successfully) attempted. Disruptive innovation within industries is often what keeps them alive, bringing forth new ideas and processes that allow companies to continuously cater to modern consumers.
The hospitality realm is admittedly notorious for lagging behind other industries in terms of adopting new technology and is, at times, in need of a disruption. This becomes especially apparent as we look to the group and venues segment, specifically. Years previous, the Internet Booking Engine and Online Travel Agencies revolutionized our industry. The process of booking a trip and hotel transitioned from one which was owned primarily by travel agents and uninformed inquiries to one which was independent, convenient and efficient. Booking an upcoming trip was no longer a chore; rather, it was an opportunity to effectively vet viable options online and book a room with the guest’s desired attributes (high floor, away from elevator etc.). While this disruption proved to have staying power to become the new industry norm, the group booking segment has failed to catch up… until now.
As any hotel sales manager can likely contest, the group and venue segment often represents an under maximized revenue stream — but why? Is it due to lack of leads? Not at all. In fact, a recent survey (Groupize stat) showed that hotel sales teams are managing an average of 25 leads per day. That’s 750 leads per month; 9,000 leads per year. As you can imagine, the problem that exists within this process has nothing to do with the number of leads but rather, the number of qualified leads and the tools available to managers to effectively address those leads. Interested parties are knocking at hotels’ doors, but what if staff can’t get the door open?
In fact, it's well documented that 75% of proposals are being won by the first five properties to respond and 37% of planners cite bad communication as the number one reason they go with another property during the proposal process. Rather than confirming bookings, sales managers are so often stuck in ‘process limbo’, scrambling to manually sift through and reply to an unrelenting influx of (largely unqualified) leads and RFPs in a timely manner. If it sounds like a somewhat impossible process, that’s because it is. Managers are expected to be quick and efficient as they work to identify and convert relevant leads — a demand which requires online technology that, for a very long time, didn’t exist.
As a hotelier, you might wonder — why is this so integral to my revenue stream? We still manage to secure some group bookings, are we really missing out on much? With projections that the event tech market will grow to USD 9.28 billion by 2020, and 300 million room nights attributed to meetings in 2016, it’s hard to imagine it’s taken this long to streamline the group booking process. 300 room nights amounts to nearly $50 billion in confirmed bookings — which if you ask me, sounds like 50 billion very compelling reasons to care about the group and events segment.
So, what does the future of group and events look like in the eyes of a hotelier and digital-savvy planner? Gone are the days of static “Groups and Meetings” sections on websites with an RFP form. Prospective customers and your staff alike need a more advanced, responsive and ultimately digital solution. After all, we are catering to the age of the online consumer, which means we, too, need to be online. Group planners (whether corporate, or an individual burdened with booking the next ‘girls trip’) need to access group booking details online — with rates, live availability, property rules, group communications and all other relevant details displayed through an easy to navigate, online platform. This enables global visibility for hotels, the opportunity for tailored marketing efforts, 3D tours of event space, instant RFPs, online payment and invoicing and live booking management.
A process which was previously consumed with communication delays, misinformed inquiries and unqualified RFPs has finally been streamlined for both planners and hotels. Finally, hotels can effectively control rates and publish up-to-date availability online, which empowers sales managers to invest their time in the more pivotal touch points of the guest booking process. This inspires a more efficient, revenue-conscious process as planners are able to access the information they need more quickly than they would via phone or email, and sales teams are freed up from the dreaded RFP flood.
With online group booking technology in place, planners are awarded the instant gratification of online booking, with access to all required attributes (audio visual, food, beverage etc.). This in turn, enables managers to focus on the provision of a more personalized, timely booking experience. After all, providing more attention to the details that do require personalized handling leads to extraordinary customer service and a better chance of repeat business.
It’s about time, don’t you think, that group bookings caught up to modern demands? Finally, meeting and event spaces can be booked as seamlessly as a guest booking a room. Disruption is definitely on the agenda for hotels in 2019, and it’s headed straight for the groups and events segment. But this isn’t just any disruption, this is the long-awaited solution to a problem faced by hoteliers and planners for years. With a responsive online platform in place for the group booking segment, hotels are empowered to succeed and capitalize on a largely untapped revenue stream, whilst better appealing to and connecting with planners around the globe.