Prepare now for the return of groups and meetings

By Lauren Hall  

The pandemic has dramatically accelerated the industry’s move toward the adoption of disruptive technology.

Whether the recovery is fast or slow, sustained or in fits and starts, it’s become axiomatic that hotels’ future success depends upon achieving operational efficiencies and doing more with less.

At the same time, no area of hotel revenues has been impacted as dramatically as traditional meetings and events, including sales and catering, leading many to wonder whether group business will ever return to previous levels of revenue.

We’ve watched with interest as leading brands have introduced new models for hybrid meetings; healthier, cleaner onsite meeting options with strict sanitation protocols; and even onsite meeting support via remote device.

These are important developments to help hotels regain their footing as they prepare for the meetings of the future.

To supplement them, hoteliers are urged to consider the cost and profit side of the equation—the ways in which the latest disruptive technology can make sourcing, booking meetings and even managing group revenue more seamless, cost-effective and flexible.

Here are some factors to consider:

  • How you connect: The days of manual RFPs, managed by multiple sales personnel, are long past. The next generation of event software must connect meeting planners with hotels directly, allowing properties to display rates and inventory for their accommodation and meeting spaces online to facilitate real-time bookings. When evaluating a meeting booking solution, make sure it offers meeting planners the ability to search, compare, book and pay for function space, catering and group accommodation online, 24/7.
  • Get seamless/lower the cost of sale: Once a booking is confirmed, the hotel should be able to manage all operational processes easily, including diagramming, reporting, payment and more. As the industry recovers, sales teams have been downsized and are tasked with doing more with less. This means lowering the cost of sales is mission critical. Any online meetings support technology should be deeply integrated into the property management system, point of sales, central reservation system and payment gateways, creating not just a seamless operating environment for revenues, but also reducing time and resources spent on manual processes.
  • Online availability and sales: “Fam (familiarization) trips” and extended RFP processes are likewise things of the past. Today’s technology makes it possible to create customized hotel booking engines that include available meeting space. A truly integrated venue management platform should allow hotels to respond to requests in real time, enabling salespeople to choose whether to book business immediately, hold rates and availability or proceed to a full RFP. Today, more than ever, time is money—and time and money are tied to online efficiency.
  • Bringing it all together for profits: In meeting and venue management, as in all areas of hotel operations, the future is being defined by real-time reporting. All stakeholders—property level, regional, corporate—demand visibility into financials and the ability to track performance. This is especially critical in an environment in which every dollar of revenue counts. The latest generation of software is able to provide advanced reporting and analytics, allowing hotels to better yield group rooms, meetings and event spaces to maximize revenue. If you find a specific solution that provides it, jump on it.

Tomorrow’s meeting technology today
Meetings and group business are the signature elements of the traditional hotel experience. As pent-up demand for travel continues to build, it’s clear that, above all, travelers want to come together, meet with peers and experience all the good that comes from in-person human interaction.

Smart hoteliers will position themselves at the vanguard of the trend, providing the latest in customer-friendly meeting experiences while also managing the meetings booking process seamlessly, flexibly and cost effectively.

Tomorrow’s thriving meetings and events business starts today. Disruptive technology helps provide the key to success and, with it, recovery.

Lauren Hall is the founder/CEO of IVvy, a cloud-based sales, catering and venue management firm.

This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.

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