Hotels and venues looking to capitalize on the thriving group travel market should look for specific ways to spotlight the unique character of their property, the local area, and the overall event experience. To make that happen, be sure to tap into the wants and needs of planners and craft packages that work for their objectives. Today, that means more experiences that are visual, personal, and secure — especially when it comes to personal data.
By taking a closer look at these elements and then implementing group business best practices for each, your hotel or venue can truly own the group experience. Here are some ideas to get started.
Explore essential group business best practices:
1. Seeing is believing
When you're marketing your property, make sure to use photos and videos to tell a visual story across qualified channels such as online sourcing platforms and microsites. It's the best way to make a powerful impact, right where planners source. Of course, it's easy to say — but harder to do.
For inspiration, take a look at the Marquis Los Cabos in Mexico, which uses Instagram Stories to create a "day in the life." The team shares recipes from cooking classes, tours of suites, and best spots for views. It even works if your venue isn't picturesque, because visual storytelling is not just about the location — it's about the event. In 2019, those events are changing into a visually shared "festival," where meeting sessions leverage technology such as augmented reality and creative space use.
And don't forget to reach out after the event. Visual storytelling is a great way to stay connected and build post-event relationships with your planners. After all, if it really is about the experience, make sure the experience is visually memorable.
Get more sophisticated in the visual narrative you create for planners and event attendees. Make sure you're using video and imagery across qualified channels to make an impact where planners source. Remember: Visual storytelling serves as a powerful post-event nurturing tactic.
2. Get to know the neighborhood
Overtourism is here — and most experts say it's a growing concern when it comes to group business. According to the World Tourism Organization, 1.32 billion people traveled internationally in 2017, a 7% increase over 2016. And during the first nine months of 2018, travel again increased 5%, driven by demand for major source markets. Asia and the Pacific led growth with a 7% increase, followed closely by Europe and the Middle East (6%). That's a lot of travel to some very familiar places.
You can help solve the sameness issue by finding new ways to make your hotel or venue stand out. The cure for overtourism is a few fresh angles that show the same-old in a whole new way. We call it "getting to know the neighborhood," and it's about helping event attendees discover an interesting experience that doesn't include an open-top tour bus or a famous painting.
This year, think local, small, and personal. If you're a top 10 destination, learn how to tell a different, creative story that resonates with attendees and shows off a new side of a familiar city. The power of events is in the memories they make — and who wants to relive the same old museum every year?
Since 2017, there's been a clear trend toward overtourism. If your hotel is in a top 10 destination, learn how to tell a different story by getting local and aligning with emerging priorities. Tour buses and meeting speeches are no longer enough. Surprise and delight attendees (and planners) with a unique and memorable surprise.
3. Start hiring cybersecurity bodyguards
Planners may want personal experiences, but they're also worried about privacy and security. Data breaches, unsecured Wi-Fi networks, inconsistent POS standards — all are now among the "cyber" worries that planners bring to their event tasks. The trouble is that cybersecurity is increasingly difficult to implement and maintain. The nature of hotels, with the pace of today's data-driven world and the desire for ever-more immersive and personal experiences, makes for a vulnerable situation. One need only look at the headlines to see just how hotel properties have fared in the era of big data breaches.
Ironically, it's also the era of increased protection. Indeed, while meeting the personally identifiable information (PII) requirements behind the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) can be a time-consuming and costly endeavor, it also helps to ensure that best-practice techniques are used when handling customer PII — important when dealing with bookings and POS transactions. All of that points to the clear need for cybersecurity.
To that end, and in addition to data protections and technology safeguards, hoteliers should follow basic best practices. For example, treat cybersecurity like physical security and adopt a culture of accountability. Offer training and do a cyber risk assessment. And be sure to factor in the electronic devices (door locks, fire alarms, etc.) that make up the "internet of things."
In the era of big data, hospitality professionals should be ever-mindful to protect and secure customer data. Creating a culture of cyber accountability starts with a road map, common-sense best practices, and strong technology solutions.
The bottom line for group business best practices
Maximizing your visual imprint, capitalizing on your community, and strengthening your cybersecurity are three key ways to own your group experience. For more ways to improve your group experiences, download Cvent’s Eight Great Best Practice Tips and Trends here. Continue to hone your group experience, so your hotel or venue offers something unique to your guests, something they are unlikely to find elsewhere.
And up next, discover the winning sales habits used by the best hotels.