In 2018, over $10 billion worth of requests for group bookings were created on the Hotelplanner and Meetings.com platforms and delivered to their hotel partners. Over one-third of these became bookings. With such a volume of data at their disposal, vice-president marketing and advertising, Tim Gunstone, shares how group booking behaviour is evolving and what hoteliers can learn from over a million booked groups.
SPEED IS THE DEAL
If data shows one thing, it’s that the group booking customer no longer wants to wait. Ideally, they want to book groups into your property instantly. Request for pricing (RFPs) take time and if your response is slow you will lose business. Most of our bookings still come through our online RFP process but some of our best partner hotels provide instant offers on the platform.
The hotelier still controls the dates, payment conditions and of course the rates offered but we can confirm the group booking instantly. Over 2018, the instant offers conversion rate outperformed RFPs by over 100 per cent.
“Corporate travel will slow in a downturn and conferences especially those in year one and two will get smaller or even cancel last minute”
– Tim Gunstone
Hotels should recognise that brand loyalty is low in group. We have seen many chains reach out to the event planners to build loyalty but when you are spending of thousands of dollars, loyalty schemes do not work. We do see loyalty from a professional event planner to a venue and a hotel team that they know works. If a planner knows the people and the layout works, they will go back but for new business across properties loyalty is tricky to grow.
Technology is playing a major role in driving group hotel bookings. Instant group rates where groups can book direct via a GDS saw the biggest growth rates on our platform and our new tools that enable the event planner to market the hotel to their guests easily and, without risk, is looking like a huge winner for 2019.
Visibility to the group planner is huge driver for hotel management companies and brands that want groups. You need to analyse the groups you attract and work out where they are both physically and online.
“You can recession proof your company through your group strategy. We don’t know if a down turn is headed our way but over the years they tend to come along quite regularly. We dug out the stats from 2009 to work out what groups die and what keeps going.
Corporate travel will slow in a downturn and conferences especially those in year one and two will get smaller or even cancel last minute. You can future proof by catering for family groups (birthdays weddings), sports teams and religious groups. These can be less lucrative; however they don’t stop.
“The group travel industry in the Middle East has experienced a drastic increase over the past few years. In particular, the UAE, has seen one of the highest climbs in terms of developing this sector of the economy,” says Thomas Lacovich, international product manager, Hotelplanner. “I manage the UAE market and build relationships with the many hoteliers in the area. The country shows a huge potential for groups and long-stay bookings. Our 2018 data showed that there was $500,000 in potential revenue for hotels to grab. We managed to convert 30 per cent of that to bookings but it can be even better!”
* The writer is VP marketing and advertising, HotelPlanner Limited
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