Hotel Visibility - Six Ways to Get More Meetings Business
By Michael Boult President & CEO, StarCite, Inc. | October 28, 2008
According to a recent article in Hotels Magazine, when it comes to more meetings business, "Who gets the lion's share of the proceeds will depend largely on two key factors: the right technology and the right read on what meeting planners want." When it comes to technology, there are several aspects that hoteliers need to consider - First and foremost is the quickly growing use of the internet to shop and review hotels by corporate meeting planners along with the need for properties to have an appropriate level of visibility on such channels. The principle of appealing content holds true for a hotel's internal website as much as for web-based group booking channels that meeting planners are using. Second, is the increasing practice of transacting using electronic means -- most notably e-RFPs for the meetings industry and increasingly, the importance of instant access to rates and availability of sleeping, meeting and catering. Finally, it is absolutely critical that a hotel's technology systems - sales and catering systems, lead management and sales management are fully integrated and working together. In today's world, the ability to be proactive, working with real-time inventory information enables sales managers to make better business decisions, react to changing situations quickly and prudently while allowing lightning fast response times for better conversion success ratios.
With these factors in mind I'd like to share six ways that that can help you get and manage more meetings business:
1) Recognize that more planners are using the internet - and its usage continues to grow.
Look within first. Hoteliers should invest time in analyzing and reviewing their own website. Ask the following questions: Am I getting as much group business as I can through my site? If not, how could the site become more appealing to a corporate meeting planner? The paradigm shift is in motion guiding hotel marketing managers away from printed publications and toward increasing their online presence and visibility. Eighty-three percent of the planners surveyed in Conventions (M&C) Magazine's last survey of meeting planners found that of the 460 corporate respondents used the Internet to help plan meetings, up from 71 percent in 2004. By their next survey, the percentage is forecasted to grow to 90 percent. More than 70 percent of these said that individual hotel websites were their first choice. If a hotel wants to maximize its website, the site must be first-rate in delivering the critical information and features that meeting planners are looking for. If not, planners will quickly abandon and check another site. Finally, consider the benefits of search engine marketing to ensure that your web site comes up in the appropriate spot on the major search engines.
2) The internet is now faster and more powerful. Raise your internal bar for website performance and content.
Virtually all corporate Internet users use high-speed broadband connections. Approximately, 75 percent of other active Internet users in the US are now using broadband at home. This means that your customers can search faster and access more sites in a web session, i.e. they can quickly visit your competitors, compare and contrast, and make quicker, more informed purchasing decisions. Hotels can no longer get by with one page dedicated to meetings containing a few banquet room shots. Content is King. In the same M&C survey, 58 percent of corporate planners said meeting space specifications were "extremely useful." More than half of corporate respondents also cited floor plans (55 percent) in the same category. Now, with the increasing power of the web - hotels can offer rich media content that stretched well beyond floor plans. A major development taking place in hotel web marketing is the use of streaming video, e-brochures, e-books and virtual tours that enable planners to tour your property from their desks. Potential clients can view your rooms and suite options, restaurants, amenities, and banquet rooms, all 24x7. Consider the global marketing opportunity that this provides your property. Remember that the key is to be sure that once a meeting planner is on your site they must be kept intrigued and engaged through active, rich content and online tools.