Hoteliers looking to increase their group business shouldn't limit themselves to attracting events domestically. There are ample opportunities to reach out to international planners in ways that will resonate with them and build business from abroad. Here's a look at five top ideas.
1. Market in Similar Destinations Outside Your Country
Identify the international locations that are similar to yours and that planners may be searching alongside your city. With sophisticated reporting technology and dashboards, you can see other destinations that are getting the same RFPs as yours. For instance, if your hotel is in London, you might find that planners are also sending the same RFP to Paris and Madrid. Then, you can use a number of different marketing tools to target planners in those international cities. Online sourcing platforms allow your ad to appear on the pages of competitive markets that you specify. As with any marketing efforts, it's very important that you thoroughly understand your target audience, because planners in another country may have different venue priorities than domestic planners.
Forming relationships with marketing agencies, especially those specializing in hospitality, in the geographies you're targeting can be another good way to gain efficiencies and ensure that the information you're attaining is relevant and reliable. Meeting Professionals International (MPI) is great resource as well; joining this group and taking steps to connect with its members can help you build a solid network of event planners in other countries. In addition, the resources provided by MPI can help you finely hone your competitive positioning and strategy abroad.
2. Utilize Trade and Consumer Publications, Along With Social Media
Trade publications can be a good way to connect with local event planners in any country. Robin Lee Allen, managing partner for Esperance Private Equity, says: “Even in the age of the internet, trade publications still carry a lot of weight. Placing adverts in local trade magazines can go a long way in international recruiting efforts." Or, he says, take the consumer approach by placing ads in prestigious consumer-oriented international publications. “I don't mean general consumption magazines, but those specifically tailored to frequent users of hospitality services." He offers Elite Traveler, Spear's Wealth Management Survey, and Worth Magazine as a few examples.
In addition, don't overlook the power of LinkedIn to connect with professional planners around the worth. According to LinkedIn data, the platform has more than 610 million members in over 200 countries and territories. Other international social media platforms, such as Xing and Viadeo, can also help hoteliers reach target audiences. These sites also offer the ability to advertise and share messages to specific, targeted groups.
3. Offer Virtual-Reality Tours of Your Property
Conducting site visits for international meetings and events can be both a logistical and budgetary challenge for planners. Fortunately, today's technology offers ways to overcome these challenges. Virtual-reality tours are a great way to show off your property to planning professionals around the globe. They can experience your meeting space, guest rooms, and amenities in 3-D, and they will be much more likely to book the business — after all, seeing is believing. They'll also be excited to see your VR capabilities, which are an increasingly popular strategy for creating memorable experiences for attendees: In Cvent's 2018 Global Planner Sourcing Report, 17% of planners said they use augmented and virtual reality, a jump of 10 percentage points over 2017.
4. Save International Planners Time With Event Packages
Site visits aren't planners' only logistical nightmare when organizing an event abroad. They have to source not only the venue but also arrange for catering, audiovisual services, offsite activities, and more. Doing all that from afar can be a tall task, especially if they are unfamiliar with the destination and don't have trusted contacts to ask for help. That's where hotels can make it much easier for them and offer full-service event packages. If your proposal saves planners' significant time and effort by putting together a customizable bundle of services using in-house, partner, and/or trusted local vendors, they will see the increased value of choosing your hotel. Bonus: Having one package price means less risk of error or variation with multiple currency conversions.
5. Whenever Possible, Don't Let Language Be a Barrier
In addition to pricing conversions, varying language can make it a challenge to ensure that hotels clearly understand a planner's RFP and send accurate responses. If at all possible, venues should present their proposal in the same language as the RFP submission. Online sourcing platforms help by localizing the form itself so hotels have a better likelihood of interpreting the planners' needs. In addition to language, don't forget to consider time and cultural differences when interacting with potential customers internationally.
The Opportunity to Grow Group Business Is Global
With these tips and the right technologies, there are ample opportunities to share the appeal of your venue around the world. Don't limit yourself to domestic events, but be sure to be strategic about the international markets you target, make logistics as easy as possible for planners, and work hard to overcome language and cultural differences.