Brought to you by:
Meeting planners have long decried the lack of transparency in hotel room availability and pricing, as well as the need to send RFPs to gain such insights.
The current industry standard for booking sleeping rooms and meeting space is like a canyon, with event planners and hotel inventory separated by a massive chasm — a lack of trust and transparency filling the void between.
Emerging instant booking technology for groups can serve as a bridge linking each side of that chasm, making the purchase of group rooms and meeting space a more direct and trustworthy process.
The Origins of Direct Booking
Restaurants hit a new stride with the advent of online reservations. Thanks to apps like OpenTable, reservations, restaurant flow, and wait times harmonized, improving the guest experience, as well as restaurant income and reviews.
Soon, technology emerged that allowed organizers to book event space at these restaurants, as well as office spaces and meeting space in other venues. But renting a vacant space does not amount to booking a meeting — the planner still has to orchestrate a catered lunch, audio-visual equipment, and other ancillary services.
The standard for booking a meeting depends on the planner’s ability to book these other aspects of the event at the same time, whether they choose to do so or not. A booked room is a blank canvas. Until you paint in the necessary event details, you don’t have a full picture.
The Importance of Both Rooms and Space
To earn adequate revenue, hotels need to sell guest rooms alongside meeting space. Groups can’t “hog space” without also spending on sleeping rooms, catering and other hotel services.
While online travel agencies (OTAs) helped sell guest rooms, up to nine rooms at a time, there has lacked a way to do both online — sell group guest rooms and meeting space — directly to event planners and group organizers. Online group booking doesn’t work when the event professional can book only half the equation online but still has to submit an RFP for the other half.
Who is going to complete one half of the process online and then call the hotel for the other half? No one. The planner will simply call the hotel for both. (The exception to this rule are hotels that don’t have meeting space for sale. An online group booking tool would still be valuable for properties that want to offer inventory in excess of nine rooms at a time, the booking limit currently in place with OTAs.)
What the hospitality industry needs is a solution that bridges this divide and brings these aspects of group booking together on one online platform.
A single guest can use OTAs to plan their entire vacation, and patrons can go online to set a dinner date. And planners should be able to organize groups and gatherings in the same way, all in one place, entirely online, with group rates, meeting space or both, as well as catering and amenities, at their fingertips.
The Evolution of the Hospitality Industry
Both planners and venues will have to adjust their accustomed behaviors to successfully adopt direct group booking. Any time an industry has shifted sales from in store or over the phone to an online setting has required nurturing consumer behavior to adopt the change in medium.
When OTAs first came on the scene, the booking process wasn’t so automatic — hotels didn’t even know they had sold a room. They received faxes or other manual notifications of bookings, which then had to be inputted into their system.
Given that booking a complete meeting online is still in the nascent stages, some planners may be reluctant to change their processes and workflow, even if the new way turns out to be simpler and more efficient.
Most important, planners have to trust that the technology will deliver on what it promises. They have to have confidence that the online group booking is integrated with the hotel’s sales and catering system. They also have to have confidence that the transaction will be easy.
Suppliers have to provide better information and more transparency so that the end user will trust the technology and have confidence their transaction will be completed accurately.
The hospitality industry has come a long way in the past 20 years, and direct booking for groups is a highly anticipated development for the industry’s tech stack. It’s time for the hospitality industry to embrace building trust, connections and easier transactions between buyer and seller for the good of all involved.