Originally published in Hotels Online
Before we dive in, be sure to visit our ultimate guide to grow events and group business for an all-encompassing rundown of events, sales and catering tips, data points and best practices.
Many questions are on the minds of hospitality leaders as they strategize new, creative ways to generate revenue. While the recovery has been largely driven by domestic, leisure travelers, groups and corporate bookings are starting to return.
In the US alone, group meeting volume increased by 30% in October 2021 over the previous month. Additionally, the average number of attendees and event space used surpassed pre-pandemic levels. This has sales and event professionals asking, “What’s driving the latest group business trends?” and, “Will this be the year corporate travel returns?”
As events bounce back, hoteliers will have to adapt to the new needs of customers while differentiating their offerings from the competition. Based on Amadeus research and industry insights, here are five new tactics your sales and event teams can employ now to convert opportunity into revenue.
Investigate Who’s Looking and Booking
Just as the pandemic has changed the needs and wants of customers, your hotel’s traditional business mix has likely changed as well. In some cases, businesses will become more local and community-based partnerships. In other cases, it will be previous customers who are ready to host events again.
Reaching back out to familiar groups who previously canceled is a great place to start rebuilding your prospect list, and offering an updated approach to events, such as an outdoor space or shift to virtual/hybrid could be the key to having them rebook.
Partner with your revenue manager to assess how audiences (both old and new) are booking your property and how that impacts group business in particular. Use both your booking engine and business intelligence data to identify trends. Then partner with your marketing manager to understand who is engaging with your marketing channels (ads, social media, website, etc.) as well as what kinds of content are performing best. This may indicate future interest and opportunity.
Reimagine the ‘Business’ Traveler
Once you’ve identified who’s looking and booking, create new guest personas if needed so that you can better understand your most valuable traveler types and determine how your property can be uniquely positioned to serve them.
For example, the corporate travel landscape looks a lot different now than it did a year and a half ago. Instead of companies predictably booking large room blocks associated with conferences and events, workers are traveling in smaller groups and more flexibly. The result of remote work during the pandemic has introduced a meteoric rise in digital nomads and ‘bleisure’ travelers.
These traveler segments are more likely to extend their trip to explore a new location. For others completely untethered to an office, some may be looking to hotels as a home base for remote work, while exploring new areas of the world at a whim.
Consider new ways to attract these audiences, whether through discounts, ‘staycation’ packages, offering rooms as a home base for remote work, or even monetizing non-room attributes such as spa services or pool passes to increase revenue.
Update Your Packages to Reflect Today’s Groups
If your property hosts events, you’re likely hosting more social events this year with weddings every Thursday and Sunday and even on Monday holidays. First and foremost, make sure you think about how to expand your space and your availability to host all those social events that went uncelebrated last year.
One opportunity is for hoteliers to position their properties as the preferred location to host meetups for remote teams or for businesses that have foreign offices but still require a physical space for impromptu meetings. There may also be an opportunity to host multiple teams either in one location or across different locations. Consider updating your packages to better accommodate smaller business events, working sessions, and cocktail hours for teams looking to socialize after all those hours of video calls they’ve logged.
And don’t forget to assess your hybrid meeting offering. Can you provide technology to connect multiple teams from different locations? This capability could be the differentiator that wins you more business. Whether you’re repositioning your event space or the types of events you’re hosting, hoteliers that can build enticing packages and address the ‘work, stay, and play’ mindset of these new travelers will be the ones to truly set themselves apart.
Digitize Your Response Process
That previously mentioned fierce competition is even more harrowing when it comes to receiving requests for proposals (RFPs). Data from Amadeus’ MeetingBroker shows that 72% of first responders win the business, meaning that the digitization of your RFP response process can make all the difference in you being that respondent.
To get the greatest visibility, create profiles for your property on sites like CVENT and MeetingPackage.com, which provide options to view and submit RFPs for event locations. Then be the first to respond with beautiful, comprehensive digital proposals including photos, videos, and all the information a planner needs to make their decision. If you connect these platforms to your sales and catering solution, you can easily be notified and respond to any incoming RFPs as part of your daily tasks. Even better, skip the RFP process altogether for small events and enable meeting planners to book directly via your website by supplying real-time availability, pricing, and the capability to instantly book your space.
Whether virtual relationship building, customer relationship management, or providing swift electronic options for proposals, signatures, and payments; speed of communication and quality of response in today’s environment wins the business. Companies that prioritize technologies that reduce friction for their customers, while bringing creative and novel solutions to elevate the experience will have the edge needed in competing for business.
Deliver a Personal Touch
Hoteliers can further elevate their opportunity to increase sales by shifting their approach from selling function space to selling an experience that they can uniquely deliver on with their expertise. This means taking a more personalized approach to selling to support customers’ individualized treatment and tailored recommendations, no matter the booking size.
Some groups for instance may now be looking for added privacy and safety measures which a smaller hotel could accommodate. On the other hand, sprawling outdoor or larger function space may be desired for social distancing, making a luxury hotel more alluring with less attendees. Hotel leaders should now ask themselves if they have confidence in all dimensions of the sales cycle where the personal expertise of their team and digital excellence run in parallel.
Finding Balance to Fuel Growth
Amid all the lingering questions surrounding recovery, we know one thing for certain. In a digitally accelerated world, it’s all about balance.
Doubling down on sales means understanding that customer needs and expectations have changed and in this new era of travel, digitalization can help support potential for growth at a higher level. Success in this market will go to teams who are able to build personalization into the foundation of the sales cycle, reimagine enticing packages, and embrace virtual relationship building – all while leveraging technology to remove friction from the buying process.
For more industry insight and expert sales tips, download our “Rebuilding Hospitality – Sales” eBook.