Sales Managers and Meeting Planners: Different Hats - Same Team

By Jill Farley Director of Sales & Marketing, Kinzie Hotel | September 10, 2017

Throughout the years, I have heard meeting planners say, “back in the day we did it this way” or “it was easier when we did it that way.” As cities are welcoming more hotels and new sales managers are coming into the hotel sector; we need to learn to adapt. Although meeting planners might say hotels and sales managers have changed; I am here to tell you why and how we can work together effectively in today’s thriving marketplace.

There are two main reasons as to why things have changed recently:

1. Cities are Growing Faster and Bigger Than Ever

Our Chicago market has grown over 1.5 Million annual room nights ( 4, 200 hotel rooms ) in the last three years and it has become extremely competitive between hotels. Groups are looking for the brightest and shiniest new hotel. They do not want the same big box that grandma and grandpa took them to for family vacations. Groups are no longer looking to put everything under one roof. Meeting planners are working harder than ever to plan guest rooms at one hotel, unique meeting space at another, and dinner at the most popular celebrity chef restaurant.

Groups want to experience everything that Chicago ( or any city ) has to offer. We all want to feel the local flare! At Kinzie Hotel, for instance, our mantra is Chicago Starts Here, meaning that we are a launch pad for an authentic experience outside of our walls. Everything from our hotel décor to our customized packages have been spun to reflect the vibrant city that we call home.

With the extreme competition between hotels, they cannot afford to lose one guest room. With that, hotels are becoming less flexible in their rates, attrition, and cancellation clauses to ensure groups uphold their room allotment. Some hotels have to stick to their brand standard contract and cannot make changes without corporate approval. This becomes more time consuming, but smaller or independent hotels can provide those changes without corporate approval. All hotels have some flexibility in the contractual clauses, but independent hotels can change contracts on the spot.

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Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.