Leveraging an Online Booking Engine for Small Groups
The group booking process is broken.
It’s a polarising reality that all hospitality professionals know to be true. Group business — small groups, specifically — represent a wealth of potential revenue to hotels, but that revenue is often beyond tangible reach. Why? Because the operational structure put in place to support small group business was in desperate need of an update years ago – an update that it never received.
Between the long, complicated RFP forms, the lack of instant rates and availability information, and the overwhelmed sales staff, hotels are currently converting online group business as low as 1-2%. That alarmingly underwhelming conversion rate isn’t a product of the segment itself, but rather, the lack of a streamlined group sales and booking process to go along with it. We live in a digital age, and the booking process modern travellers and planners have come to know is seamless, convenient and largely based in self-service – so shouldn’t that same standard apply to small groups and meetings? Isn’t there a better way to approach this vital segment of a hotel’s business, to effectively market to prospective groups and planners, and capitalise on revenue?
The answer is, undoubtedly, yes. When hotels give planners the resources they need to book efficiently and effectively, not only do costs to manage unqualified leads decrease, lead conversions inevitably increase.
Regardless of the size or scale of your hotel, nearly every segment and touch point of the hospitality industry is rapidly changing. Once manual processes defined by legacy systems have since been replaced by agile, digital technologies. In the case of small groups, we are finally witnessing a slow (but monumental) shift to adopt new-age technology, and re-invent the small group booking process with a dedicated online booking platform. It is with this new infrastructure in place that hotels will finally be able to meet the evolving expectations of modern planners, achieve global visibility, effectively manage revenue, and so much more.
Small groups can bring big business
With small group business and simple meetings (defined as a gathering of 50 people or less) now making up 50% of the group booking segment, hoteliers finally recognise that small meetings can make for big business. However, those planners dedicated to vetting and booking a prospective property (meeting room/small venue space and guest rooms) expect a fast turn around and attentive service that allows for a personalized experience. In fact, corporate planners are notably ‘under the gun’ when planning small meetings or corporate events, often having less than two weeks to plan and confirm a space and itinerary. Often, corporations may rely on office assistants to take on planning duties for upcoming meetings, in which case, offering a straightforward booking process is undeniably paramount.
Studies show that small meeting planners cite finding available dates (63%), negotiating room rates (53%) and finding suitable function space onsite (48%) as the most challenging factors of the planning process. By utilizing a digital marketplace that has this functionality built in, hotels can effectively cater to small groups and corporate planners by simplifying the booking process.
With the use of a comprehensive, online group booking engine, hotelier’s can bring their venue and meeting space to market in a way that remains competitive but is highly accessible to a global audience. Planners can access everything they need to know about a venue or meeting space or overnight accommodations. Availability is posted in real-time, revenue management is built in to ensure hotels are maximizing the efforts of their sales team, and processes that were once painfully manual (RFPs, invoices, payments, reports, etc.) are automated and centralised. This effectively removes much of the leg-work for hotel sales staff, ensuring they are in a position to market their property and respond/manage leads in a pro-active manner that was previously impossible. This also allows them to focus their efforts where it matters most – rather than fighting a broken process; they can finally focus entirely on winning more business. By leveraging an online booking engine for small groups, hoteliers can finally tap into a lucrative revenue stream while planners benefit from enhanced, personalised service and an efficient booking process.
About the Author
Lauren Hall is the award-winning Founder and Chief Executive Officer of iVvy. Lauren is a passionate entrepreneur with more than 25 years’ business management experience at Executive and Board level, successfully building multiple companies from startup to strategic and financial exit. With a background in programming, accounting and marketing, Lauren’s expertise spans manufacturing, retail, advertising and technology industries in both South Africa and Australia.
She co-founded iVvy in 2009, overseeing our growth to 1,000 clients in 13 countries and expansion to New Zealand, Asia, Europe and North America.
Ernst & Young recognised Lauren as a future global leader of industry through the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women Asia-Pacific program for 2016. Lauren won three International Silver Stevie Awards for Entrepreneur of the Year Globally 2016, Innovator of the Year 2016 and Entrepreneur of the Year Asia Pacific 2016 and recently was named Gold Coast Business Woman of the Year 2016.