By Lauren Hall, Founder & CEO, iVvy

The digital era that we find ourselves in can be viewed from two perspectives – one in which companies are inspired by the new possibilities of the digital revolution and one in which technological investment is an overly costly expenditure. Technology seems to be on a fast-track to evolution, meaning platforms that emerged just a few short years ago could already become obsolete by the newer, updated solutions of today. While this is the reality of the progressive age we live in (and the ongoing influence of modern consumer demand), companies far too often fall into the trap of focusing on the price of new technology, rather than the cost of outdated technology. Sure – investing in new technology might appear to be expensive, but we tend to neglect the compiling costs associated with merely trying to survive on old technology.

This dilemma becomes especially apparent within the hospitality realm – an industry which has established a reputation for slow technological adoption. While other industries surged ahead to embrace much-needed digital updates and reform, hospitality often lagged behind, relying instead on traditional legacy systems. Fortunately, the undeniable influence of modern guests and their ever-evolving set of expectations over the last few years has implored (or better yet, demanded) hoteliers to finally embrace new-generation technology. This long-awaited shift has brought with it a guest experience that is more intuitive, personalized and frictionless – from planning to booking, on-property, post-stay and beyond.

However, there still exists a segment of our industry that is often limited by the burden of outdated technology. Despite the complex nature of group bookings – specifically, large hotels catering to conventions and meetings – many hotels are still relying on legacy venue management systems. While they may be surviving (albeit, with no shortage of frustrations and missed leads), it is becoming integral for hotels to ask the question: Are those outdated platforms bottlenecking the groups and events segment into a stagnant, inefficient bucket? Is it (finally) time for an industry-wide upgrade congruent with the digital standards set across other sectors? So perhaps the most critical question of all – just how much is your old venue management technology potentially costing your property?

With the modern hoteliers in mind, we’ve created a two-part series to tackle these very questions head-on:

Catering to the Modern Event Planner

Large-scale resort properties especially experience mounting pressure to maintain occupancy rates during the off-season (and shoulder season). Fortunately, these resorts often have a revenue-generating advantage to rely on – venue space – and the capacity to host and attract events and meetings of various size and scale. Whether a convention, tradeshow, bachelor or bachelorette party, wedding, or corporate meeting, events can represent a lucrative travel segment that is far less reliant on high-season timing. However, those hotels are hard-pressed to truly capitalize on that revenue stream without the right tools in place to empower the group segment and effectively market to modern event planners. And when it comes to marketing venue space, planner perception absolutely matters. With planners becoming increasingly sophisticated and digitally-savvy, they possess the power to be more selective in those properties they favor. As such, those hotels which cater to their desire for a more up-to-date process model will surely thrive in comparison to those who remain stuck in the past. Let’s consider the following:

– 61% of consumers think a company is outdated if they are using an operating system that is more than four years old – More than 80% of customers will leave a business’ website and abandon an online purchase if the site is outdated – 57% of consumers agree that small businesses that use modern technology are more competitive in the marketplace – About half (49%) of planners use the internet as the primary way of finding an event venue – Event professionals list “session descriptions” and “schedule building” as the most important features of their mobile apps

Now, more than ever before, it is imperative that hotels shift away from the often painstaking manual processes associated with the traditional group booking process to embrace a more streamlined and tech-savvy solution. The modern planner wants to book online, and to do this they require prospective venues to readily offer live availability, virtual tours, customizable packages, instant, online RFPs, online payments and so much more. Tight deadlines should no longer be a point of contention, as hotels can finally advertise their venue space on an online marketplace that effectively showcases all the details a planner requires to vet and book that property.

While we are speaking to the modern event planner, we can’t ignore the increasing influence of millennial planners across the group travel segment. Born from 1981 to 1996, millennials represent today’s (and tomorrow’s) group travelers and, respectively, group planners. Let’s consider the following statistics:

– Studies indicate that 85% of meetings are unmanaged. Often, millennial assistants are doing the planning. – 58% of millennials prefer to travel with friends, and that is 20% more than older generations – 81% of millennial organizers desire real-time inventory and pricing and 83% want self-service

With impressive buying power and an unrivaled understanding of the ongoing digital evolution, hoteliers’ ability to cater to their booking preferences is paramount. Unsurprisingly, the millennial generation is hyper-connected, spending an average of 25 hours per week online. As such, it’s no surprise that planners from this generation crave a digital, hyper-efficient booking experience. And if one property doesn’t provide that desired booking model, surely those millennial planners and organizers will take their business elsewhere.

Ready to re-invent your group booking process? Stay tuned for part two of this series.