Groups and Meetings Online: The Next Frontier
By Pam Streeter Vice President Distribution and Marketing, Interstate Hotels & Resorts | August 14, 2010
A look into the next two years reveals a more intensive shift of meeting and group planners looking for ways to streamline and consolidate the process of researching and placing group business, a $300 billion global marketplace. By moving these processes to the online world, many corporations will consolidate their groups and meetings business under procurement departments allowing for the standardization of business practices.
How will this impact the hospitality industry? Tremendous change will be in hoteliers' future, yet as always the industry will adapt to the change and after a few bumps in the road will eventually wonder how they ever did business without meetings being booked online. We know this is true simply by looking at how the industry adapted to individual travelers moving their business online beginning in 1996 with the early adopters and becoming a mainstream method of making reservations in the last three years. Consider the fact that in October 2005, J.D. Power & Associates stated that 41% of total hotel revenue is coming from the Internet and that is just a mere 9 years after the first hotel direct reservation was booked online.
In order to understand obstacles and the need for industry standardization in moving the concept of booking meetings and groups online, we must examine the typical manual meetings process.
If you are not exhausted by the steps above, keep in mind that none of these conversations occur in a simple telephone call, typically a game of phone tag must occur and each conversation is usually held in a separate phone call.
With the typical manual meetings process described, it is understandable why corporations believe "that meetings and events are the last uncharted territory for procurement in a lot of corporations." It is also the reason that a panel of senior executives lead by Christine Duffy, CEO of Maritz Travel and MPI board chairwoman, asserted that procurement and the new regulatory business environment has changed how corporate America manages meetings.(1)
A deeper look into the process must include an understanding of the decision-making process from the hotel stand-point. The information that a hotel must analyze and process to complete a group booking includes: