Times may be tough, but they've brought us all together in unexpected ways. As we forge ahead, let’s be mindful of the good deeds and helping hands that will get us through this downturn.
In this edition of our new weekly blog series, Good Works and Great Ideas, which we publish every Friday, we address ways that hotels can stay prepared for group business after COVID-19. We also explore a collection of articles and inspiring examples from the hospitality industry that demonstrate how hotels are helping others and making the most of this uncertain time.
Great Ideas: Discover ways hotels can stay prepared for group business
Great ideas empower us to thrive and move toward a better day. We’ll cover a few pressing questions with ideas for how to address them and data points to help you prepare for the future.
How to stay visible on sourcing networks
One of the best ways to keep event planners informed about what’s going on at your hotel is via your website and on sourcing platforms. Cvent’s Supplier Network makes it easy to keep hotel profile pages up to date. It’s critical information that planners are looking for as they continue to submit RFPs for future events and check in to see if your hotel is active. Here are some tips on how to update and optimize your Cvent Supplier Network profile:
- Fill in “need dates.” These dates indicate when you are looking for business. Make sure none of the need dates are live for dates that you anticipate being closed.
- Add promotions. Like need dates, update your promotions so that the dates don't overlap with dates you're not accepting group business.
- Include opening date/update property name. If you're currently closed, use the opening date field to let clients know when you expect to be up and operating. You can also add a tag to the end of your property name, flagging that you are temporarily closed.
- Attach documents and/or include links. In the documents section of your profile, upload a PDF or link directly to messaging you have on your website
The more complete your Cvent Supplier Network profile, the more planners will see it. Make sure your venue details are correct, all amenities are updated, and images are added.
How social distancing may change future in-person meetings
This is still a topic under discussion within the industry, but social distancing will likely affect future meetings in many ways – one of the most notable being room and seating configuration. Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) recently posted a discussion about how to manage social distancing at future events, and a few of the participants had suggestions for how they plan to tackle this challenge when it comes to room setup.
Kelsey Schmidt, senior manager of event panning at Law School Admission Council, says her team is planning to keep tables six feet apart and create 12-foot aisles. They’ve also considered putting tape marks on the carpet to indicate how far apart people standing in line should be from each other.
Jennifer Stewart of International Association of Chiefs of Police shared her team’s brainstorming ideas for educational session rooms and theater-style seating. She's hopeful that by October, they will be able to set up small groups of chairs near one another while still accommodating the social distancing recommendations. For example, setting up columns of two chairs each with six-foot aisles in between, and having increased distance between chair rows – which is essentially theater setup with an increased number of aisles. This kind of configuration will work, presuming that people will feel comfortable sitting close to a known colleague or friend, yet leery of sitting too close to an “unknown” risk.
Event food and beverage during times of social distancing
For any on-campus events, Harvard University’s guidelines limit them to ten people and urge the use of a room or event space large enough to prevent crowding for the expected attendance. The guidelines around food and beverage recommend staggering stations and serving food in individual units like bagged lunches, individual water bottles, etc. Avoid serving foods where multiple hands will touch the food, like bowls of chips. Provide serving utensils if needed or arrange for food to be served by staff who are trained in safe food handling.
Bo Peabody, co-owner of Mezze Restaurant Group, outlined a few precautions for restaurants during this time that can also be applied to food and beverage spaces for meetings and events. He suggests going beyond spacing out tables and taking advantage of any outdoor space if you have it available – especially as we’re moving into the warmer months. Provide an open-air environment if possible, or make sure the room has airflow – open windows or keep a door cracked open so people don’t feel confined and the room gets fresh air.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture distributed guidelines for food pantries, and a few are also applicable to hotels and venues that provide food and beverage:
- Consider keeping the amount of food on display low and restock more frequently to reduce the amount of food touched by different clients.
- Instead of making food available for clients to browse, consider a menu-only option and have staff pre-pack the meal bags or boxes.
- Restrict the number of people in the kitchen space to encourage social distancing and limit the number of people handling food.
- Temporarily postpone any food demos or cooking classes and don’t offer food samples.
Good Works: See how hotels across the world are lending a hand
As great ideas help to get group business back on track, good works help us stay positive during times of struggle. This week, our good works focus on hotel-led initiatives to help essential workers, and hotels that are providing virtual classes and entertainment at no charge.
Choice Hotels joins Serta's “Stay Home, Send Beds” initiative
Choice Hotels has partnered with mattress brand Serta in its “Stay Home, Send Beds” initiative. Through it, Serta provides bed donations to help hospitals and temporary medical facilities that are experiencing shortages because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those who are members of the Choice loyalty program can donate their points toward beds for hospitals in need. For a limited time, Choice is doubling that impact by matching one hundred percent of donated points.
“We want to do our part to help those on the frontlines and facilitate care for those in need and, right now, every bed counts,” says Robert McDowell, chief commercial officer of Choice Hotels. “Our customers are looking for ways to safely give back during this pandemic and we’re proud to give them a way to do just that by supporting communities in need and contributing to this important cause.”
RLH Corporation pledges to "Keep Our Country Moving" during the COVID-19 pandemic
RLH Corporation launched “Keep Our Country Moving” – a program aimed to assist essential workers with a 50 percent discount per room between now and the end of June. This campaign is available to truck drivers, delivery personnel, construction workers, EMS teams, healthcare professionals, law enforcement agents, and anyone else whose job requires them to leave home.
Through this program, RLHC hopes to help not only those who are still working or required to travel, but also the healthcare workers and others who must stay away from home to protect their loved ones.
RLHC has also urged franchisees to utilize the American Hotel & Lodging Association program, Hotels for Hope, which focuses on connecting hotel properties with the health community for temporary housing options. They're also encouraging the use of the non-profit, Hospitality Helps, which creates a centralized bed repository for hospitals through hotels.
Hotels offer virtual classes and experiences in lieu of on-site activities
1. The Resort at Paws Up – a luxury glamping experience – is perfect for those who love the outdoors but still want all the comforts of a resort. They’ve launched an Instagram Live series called "Live from Big Sky Country," where they invite you to join the resort's experts in wildlife, wellness, cooking, and beyond.
Digital experiences range from yoga classes on the ranch, visiting the resident baby horses with the equestrian manager, foraging in the wilderness alongside an expert to see how they gather fresh ingredients, cooking classes, and learning to make body scrubs with the spa and wellness director.
The classes and experiences stream on the @theresortatpawsup Instagram page, but if you can’t view them live, you can catch up later in saved Instagram Highlights.
2. Luxury island resort Amanyara in Turks & Caicos helps you relax with a series of free wellness videos. Escape the stress and start your wellness journey with @amanyara_resort on Instagram, where Aman's wellness immersion manager David Melladew is releasing a series of health-focused videos.
Their Instagram page already includes videos like breathing techniques to help destress and and an easy-to-follow, 15-minute yoga flow. For a different kind of destressing, they've also shared the recipe for a cooler mocktail with grapefruit juice, lime juice, and mint. Follow along for more recipes, workouts, and calming routines from the hotel.
3. It’s no secret that Nashville is world-famous for live music. The Bobby Hotel in Nashville is bringing a little piece of that straight to the palm of your hand with its new Instagram Live stream Keep It Spinnin' – a virtual live music series.
Every day at 12 p.m. CDT, watch a different artist perform live and discover new music on the @bobbyhotel Instagram. If you can't watch the performances as they happen in real time, catch up later by clicking on the Keep It Playing Instagram Highlight reel, or listen to their curated Spotify playlists.
CSN Insights: What the data says
Sourcing shifts in market segments
We're monitoring to see distinctions in planner segments in terms of changes in sourcing volume. Is there more or less association sourcing vs. corporate vs. governmental, etc.? To date, we have not seen major differences between the segments – all have been impacted materially. That said, there are some minor differences.
The segments that have seen a bit less impact than others are education, association, and social meetings. Education is the segment that has held up best to date. To be clear, it remains a small portion of total meetings on the Cvent platform, but the year-over-year drops are materially better than others. Association and social also are doing a bit better than others, although the differences aren’t vast.
Those who have been impacted a bit more than average are the corporate and government segments. In both of these cases, the differences between these segments and the overall average aren’t large, but are enough to be a bit of trend. We’ll continue to watch this over upcoming weeks.
Trends in meeting size mix and types of events being sourced
If we look at the RFPs sent in the 30 days from mid-February to mid-March, and then the 30 days from mid-March to mid-April, we do see a shift in the size of the events associated with those RFPs. Based on attendee or delegate count, there are relatively fewer small meetings and relatively more large meetings. Knowing that there aren’t a lot of events being sourced for Q2, this isn’t a hugely surprising trend, but worth pointing out.
Larger events, with 101+ attendees, are a much bigger proportion of all events now than they were before the full impact of the crisis. They have increased from 22% of the total to 32% of the total. This shows that planners are looking ahead and beginning to plan their larger events now because those events require more lead time. Small events, with less than 26 attendees, have dropped from 36% of the total to 25% of the total. Small meetings and events are usually planned on a shorter timeframe, like 30-60 days out, and those meetings are not being sourced as often right now due to the CDC's guidance to avoid gatherings.
Webinar – The Cvent Source: Group Business Insights
On Friday, April 17, we hosted the first of a monthly series of webinars dedicated to providing insights – just like the ones above – on the group business landscape as you plan for a rebound to your meetings and events business.
The webinars are based on proprietary data from the Cvent Supplier Network, overall meetings and events trends, and observations from proven third-party experts in the hospitality space. We discussed:
- A profile of how 2020 sourcing has changed.
- When planners seem to think live events will return.
- How major group/MICE markets in the US and Europe are holding up.
Use the information above to keep your hotel prepared for group business when in-person events resume
For more good works and great ideas, check out last week’s post, which looks at how hotels are helping employees and guests during these tough times. And be sure to check back Friday, May 15 for the latest edition of this series.