Restarting your hospitality business in a time of COVID-19 means staying prepared for MICE business later in the year. With social distancing still in place and large gatherings on hold, now is the time to ramp up your virtual venue marketing to help planners as they source for future events. By providing virtual tours, virtual site walkthroughs, and as many photos of your event space as possible, you’ll be providing planners with the vital information they need as they look ahead to upcoming events.
Event planners may be stuck at home, but they’re still busy sourcing events for later this year and for next year too, according to the latest Cvent Supplier Network data.
Virtual tours are a great way to communicate with planners. It’s a quick and effective way of getting across your message and the essence of your brand in an easily consumable medium. Let’s take a look at the different ways you can leverage it.
It’s easier and more cost-effective than ever to create videos that connect with planners, promote trust in your brand, drive traffic and engagement, and convert leads into booked business. Videos, whether shared on social media, on your website, or in emails, give planners a quick and entertaining way to engage with your brand.
In fact, 54% of consumers prefer to see video content from brands and businesses they support, more than any other kind of content, according to HubSpot. In addition, using the word “video” in your email subject line increases open rates by 19% and click-through rates by 65%, according to a 2015 study done by Syndacast.
Regardless of the industry, video has become significantly more popular in recent years as attention spans shorten. Its increased prevalence is also a result of new technologies that make it easier to create videos. With digital cameras, smartphones, and user-friendly editing tools, anyone can produce a marketing video without a specialised team. In addition, platforms that allow livestreaming – like Facebook and Instagram – have made video into an even more engaging format, allowing users to have real-time experiences.
Augmented and virtual reality
More and more meeting planners will begin to expect augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) experiences to help them source venues. While the number of users who own or have access to VR is still relatively low, that is changing as headsets become more accessible and less expensive.
These technologies allow event planners to tour the site without having to travel, saving them time and money. Working with the venue manager, they can go through all the room and layout options and design the event virtually.
Event diagramming software can help you showcase your space easily to planners, while giving them the ability to customise and visualise the space as they would have it set up.
Watergate Hotel, for example, pre-sold 95% of their meeting space for 2016 3 months prior to opening its doors and generated $117 million worth of business with the help of event diagramming. Not only can diagramming help your teams communicate better with the client and become more operationally efficient but it can also help you sell your spaces.
Even before COVID-19, offering virtual tours as a way to sell your meeting space was a great way to attract event planners. They’re busy people, so it should come as no surprise that when you offer them a way to avoid travel costs and save a whole lot of time, virtual tours are going to impress them. Now, with social distancing regulations and lockdowns, it’s going to become an even more popular medium through which to sell and attract event planners.
According to Google Trends data, searches for “virtual visits” and “virtual tours” are on the rise. To accommodate planners who are sourcing during times of social distancing, provide virtual tours of your venue on your website and on sourcing networks. Make sure you have updated photos of past events and link to any video footage of the event space. Help planners envision the possibilities your venue can provide for their event. These virtual tools save time and allow hoteliers to sell remotely.
When sourcing, event planners are going to be looking for virtual tour tools on venue websites. By offering them, it shows that you are adaptable and willing to go that extra mile for them when it comes to making their events the best they can be.
Venues can offer visits and tours via Zoom or other similar platforms. It’s a good way to give the planner the look and feel of being in the space and provide them with a photorealistic, 360-degree model of the environment. Live videos serve as an interactive conversation between you and the planner and can also be used to host live Q&As with planners and your event team.
The UK’s Belfry Hotel & Resort offers virtual tours that can also be viewed on virtual reality headsets. Belfry provides on-site FaceTime tours where spaces are set up by on-site staff so planners can view different layouts compliant with social distancing.
Virtual tours are taking root in the US, too. Cambria Hotels has carried out around 20 virtual tours to help stimulate group bookings. As of the end of April 2020, 150 clients had taken tours of the properties. These tours included live walk-throughs hosted by local sales staff and real-time Q&A sessions.
Immersive video is another channel for reaching meeting planners, building brand authenticity, and engaging with planners as they’re sourcing. It’s a great opportunity to give planners a look into your event space while still staying safe at home. And, they can view it at their own convenience rather than scheduling a live walkthrough.
Photo panoramas or 3D tours posted on your website are viable options for putting planners in your space from the comfort of their own homes. Even for planners who don’t have access to VR headsets yet, 360-degree and 3D videos offer immersive experiences on any computer or mobile device. Users can move the video in any direction to explore your venue more thoroughly and navigate at their leisure.
3D virtual tours are often used in real estate, but hotels are also using them to showcase their properties. Hotel nhow Rotterdam in the Netherlands offers 3D walkthroughs of the entire property, including all of the available meeting space. Planners can navigate the space and get complete 360-degree views with just a few clicks.