Technology Revolution Offers Hoteliers Ample Opportunity to Grow Group Business

By Chris McAndrews Vice President of Marketing - Hospitality Cloud, Cvent | September 09, 2018

The event professional and hotelier partnership is one that has evolved significantly over the years, and much of that change can be credited to the immense impact technology has had on our lives. Gone are the days when meeting and event planners sourced venues by way of a phone book and a supporting newspaper or magazine advertisement that showcased your average run-of-the-mill meeting set-up in a local hotel ballroom. Today, planners have an incredible array of tools at their fingertips to help them source top venues in their preferred destinations. They can scan review sites and engage their industry peers on social media, quickly compare and contrast venues with a click of a button and distribute their Requests For Proposals (RFPs) electronically.

For hoteliers keeping pace with this move to digital sourcing for events, it is a great time to grow group business. Recent research shows the current global value of the meetings and events industry at $750+ billion  and growing. The 2018 Cvent Global Planner Sourcing Report, with survey results from more than 2,600 event professionals worldwide, indicates that planners are investing larger budgets in more events and are open to destinations and venues making a persuasive case for their selection to host these events. Seizing this opportunity requires that hospitality professionals take full advantage of technology available to them to engage planner prospects online, promote their hotels effectively, make good decisions on when and how to bid on business, convert prospects into customers and deliver an excellent experience for the planner customer and their event attendees.

Opportunity and Accountability

With technology driving greater transparency and turnaround times in the sourcing process, hotels are being held accountable for a compelling online presence and fast, thorough RFP responses. In pre-Internet days, a planner's visibility into hotels and other venues available in any specific city or region was minimal at best. Tracking down vital data on room types, meeting space dimensions, and other key meeting and event elements could be extremely difficult and time-consuming. As a result, enormous advantages accrued to those hotels already familiar to the planner, due to geographic proximity, peer recommendations, or previous event experience. In this environment, direct selling and managing relationships with existing group business customers was much more important than marketing for hotels seeking success in group business.

In the digital age, things have changed. Event professionals expect destinations and hotels to showcase online what makes them worthy of consideration in the sourcing process. This means compiling and displaying all relevant destination and venue data in easily accessible online locations, and highlighting hotel offerings with crisp written descriptions as well as photographs and other visual media. With planners able to expand their sourcing scope with a computer mouse click, hotels must be effective digital marketers to gain attention and win business against a wider field of competitors. Effective direct selling and relationship management with planners remains essential for hotel group business success, but hotels now must also excel in digital promotion and engagement with event professionals in order to grow their group business.

Consider this finding from Cvent's planner research: Only 16 percent of planners say they are extremely certain of their venue when they begin the sourcing process. The door is open for more group business for those destinations and hotels that are ready to make a great first impression when the planner begins the sourcing process. . . online.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.