While events and meetings are more popular than ever, it’s also a time of change — and the challenges that come with transformation. The demographics and needs of planners and managers are evolving, and they increasingly expect venues to stay current on trends and technology, offer not just a venue but a destination, and nurture relationships with personalized experiences.
Here are three best practices to help you grow and own your group business in this changing industry.
The Alphabet Soup of Generations
Your group business portfolio is increasingly multigenerational in terms of planners and attendees. There’s the Gen Xer who wants to make sure the hotel has all the best amenities. And the millennial who wants interesting and local experiences. Don’t forget the older Gen Z corporate planner, either — just out of college and ready to stamp her mobile-first focus on the world.
So how does a hotelier serve all these varied generations?
Start with a modern technology footprint that creates efficiencies and lowers costs — one that allows planners and vendors to see, in real time, the evolution of the event. For example, according to Cvent’s “2018 Planner Sourcing Gen X/Gen Y Report,” the use of mobile technology is quickly becoming an expected part of the sourcing process for both generations. In addition, unforgettable experiences don’t have to be custom — but they do need to be personal, efficient, convenient, and transparent. Do that by offering a wide array of experiences that meet the needs of a rich diversity of customers.
That’s something all generations can get behind.
Takeaway: Your hotel needs to offer a wider array of experiences. Be ready to meet the demands of a changing industry with a solid technology foundation and a plan to cater to increasingly diverse needs.
The Best Way to ‘Get Local’ Is With Your CVB
Your local convention and visitors bureau (CVB) is not the enemy. Or the competition. In fact, they’re nonprofits funded by taxes, and their main purpose is to find venues for event planners who want to come to the city.
Sounds like a perfect pairing.
To that end, few organizations are better suited to help hotels attract the right type of planner to their property. They simply know the area better and are more adept at showcasing the city’s unique experiences.
So what can you do for them? Managers who develop a relationship with their CVB become a resource, through shared content and expertise. Just as the CVB is there for local expertise, you can provide them with a trove of insights about services such as additional rooms, parking, or transportation. Hotels that help a CVB rep sell the city to a planner are more likely to get group business leads better suited to their hotel. Just don’t pop in and out when you have a free day — keep the relationship going by being actively involved in local events and charities.
Takeaway: Your shared mission is to promote the destination, so partner up with your CVB. If you help them be a better resource to planners, they’ll help you find well-qualified group business —and find ways to create local experiences sure to attract planners.
Loyalty Programs Get Personal and Predictive
It’s common knowledge that planners and attendees want a personal experience. What’s new, however, is just how far technology has come in helping to personalize the experience — while also driving business efficiencies. Personalized television screens and robo-recorded calls from the manager are no longer good enough; today, innovations such as facial recognition software and predictive data analytics can help hotel managers anticipate upcoming trends, devise proactive marketing, and create an unforgettable — and personal — experience.
That experience extends into hotel loyalty programs. Hoteliers should think beyond points and perks to provide the type of personal and familiar approach that comes with loyal patronage. According to Oracle’s “The Loyalty Divide” report, 83% of hotel guests surveyed want to use points for personal experiences, and 88% want a mobile app that supports functions such as mobile check-in and a more personalized experience. It’s all about creating a tighter connection, especially with loyalty program participants. For example, when Accor Hotels announced the launch of its “Seeker” tech program in July 2018, they did it through their Le Club loyalty program. The Seeker program measures “biometric reactions and behavioral analysis to unlock and gain deeper insights into what guests truly want and need in a travel experience.”
Takeaway: It’s not just in-the-moment events. Consumers widely expect companies to offer a proactive and personal experience to keep them engaged as a part of any loyalty program. To do so, leverage your business intelligence technology, such as competitive data and lead scoring