Having the “Gift of Anticipation” is Essential to Ensuring Productive Meetings

By Mike Hall General Manager, The Westin South Coast Plaza | September 08, 2013

Playing the part of a trusted housekeeper in a English countryside manor in the 1930s in the 2001 feature film, Gosford Park, Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren notably observed that she "had the gift of anticipation" when it came to knowing what her guests wanted, sometimes even before they, themselves, did.

Today's luxury hoteliers would be well advised to take Ms. Mirren character's lines to heart. These days, to anticipate and then to surpass the changing needs of today's mobile business travelers, hoteliers must think outside of the box by offering such things as convenient and environmentally sound pre-event services, better on-site technical resources, and even state-of-the-art innovative workspaces so that these busy guests can make the most of their meetings before, during and afterward.

In point of fact, it's a simple matter of dollars and cents. Direct spending on business travel by domestic and international travelers, including expenditures on meetings, events and incentive programs, totaled $249 billion in 2011, according to the U.S. Travel Association. And things are starting to get better in many regions of the nation now that the effects of the recession are waning.

To win a fair share of this business, hotels must stay ahead of the competition by providing thoughtful, innovative and cost-effective solutions that give a prospective meeting client the most bang for his buck, yuan, euro, peso or yen.

As hotel professionals know, successful meetings begin months and even years before they actually convene. So knowing the requirements of meeting planners at the very beginning will help to land the contract in the first place and to ensure a superior outcome that will have the client coming back for more again and again.

It's common knowledge that many meeting planners will subject prospective hotels to a comprehensive checklist, often before the properties have any idea they are being scrutinized.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.