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How Technology is Future-Proofing Hotel Meeting Sales

Despite technological advancements in 2024, many hotels are missing out on high-value group sales opportunities, risking future profitability and disruption if they remain complacent with their strategies.

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Jordan Hollander in Meetings & Events

Last updated June 06, 2024

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Imagine a new high-profile client reaching out to book an event at your hotel, with a substantial budget and a clear vision of the perfect venue. Now, picture their frustration as they wait weeks for a response from your sales team, only to find their desired location unavailable, forcing them to book elsewhere (if they haven’t already). This scenario, unfortunately, is all too common and highlights the urgent need for modernizing your sales strategies.

Group travel patterns are shifting rapidly and failing to update your tools and processes can result in missed opportunities and lost revenue even in a rising market. The demand for small group bookings is evolving, driven by the resurgence of business travel and the undeniable value of in-person interactions. A recent Deloitte study found that only 11% of business leaders believe technology can replace face-to-face client rapport building, emphasizing the irreplaceable nature of personal connections.

The nature of group travel has changed. For example, 67% of companies report increased local travel and a growing need for headquarters visits - representing a new segment of prospective bookers. Compounding the challenge of identifying and capturing new types of group travelers, non-hotel accommodations are on the rise as corporate travel policies increasingly embrace alternative lodging options.

Leveraging advanced group sales technology like Duetto’s function space optimization solutionis crucial to stay competitive and capture your fair share of business travel growth. This means integrating with corporate booking tools, enhancing guest experiences, and offering flexible, innovative solutions that meet the diverse needs of today’s group travelers. Without these modern sales tools and strategies, your hotel risks losing immediate revenue and future opportunities as clients seek more responsive and tech-savvy alternatives.

11-Day Response Time Loses Los Angeles Hotel $25,000 Group Booking

A little while ago my team was looking to book an event for the HotelTechReport community.  Our budget was $25,000 and we knew exactly where we wanted to throw the party. The venue was to be a trendy hotel rooftop in downtown Los Angeles.

I reached out to the hotel sales manager to inquire about booking the hip rooftop in downtown Los Angeles on October 19th through the RFP form on their website. It wasn’t until October 31st that the sales & catering coordinator even replied to me with a menu. By that time my team had already booked a suite in the Hyde Lounge at the Crypto dot com arena which meant this hotel had just missed out on $25,000 of highly profitable event space revenue. 

This kind of revenue leakage is happening all the time at hotels around the world. The lack of modern tools and processes creates a bad experience for the guest (i.e. my team) since we didn’t get what we wanted and lost revenue for the hotel. The revenue loss experienced is actually much more than $25,000 when considering that the probability my team would book that venue in the future has also dropped dramatically. Additionally, next time a client or partner asks for local venue recommendations in my city this hotel has dropped off our list. Group travel planners are people’s people, which means these kinds of missed referral opportunities further amplify declining group sales market share over time without a GM or owner ever having visibility as to why because causation just doesn’t show in the data.

Real conversation where hotel sales manager costs Los Angeles hotel $25,000 opportunity due to 11-day response time

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The New Composition of Small Meetings

There is a confluence of behavioral shifts that explain the rising popularity of small group bookings including: 

  • Home market team building: Increased need for local networking team building off-sites for remote teams working from home.

  • Global culture promotion: Remote work opens companies up to global talent pools but the downside is less cohesion. Smaller, more frequent off-sites enable intimate bonding experiences.

  • Sales driven meetings: Rising AI-based sales outreach increases the need for smaller in-person meetings to differentiate from the competition with face-to-face interaction.

Regardless of the explanations for these shifts, one thing is clear - there is a new breed of groups booking at hotels, which means that old sales strategies are no longer relevant to the market.

Business travel is undoubtedly back and the drivers are not surprising. According to a recent Deloitte study, only 11% of business leaders believe that technology can replace the value of in-person client rapport building and just 7% believe that technology has the power to replace in-person client acquisition. In 2023, live events returned as the #1 driver of business travel (up from #5 in 2022).

Hotels that look at this data alone will develop optimistic forecasts but the reality is that the nature of this travel has shifted. One of those shifts is towards more local travel with 67% of companies saying that employees are traveling more to cities within driving distance. Another shift is towards headquarters visits. As employees have relocated in the age of remote work, the rising cost of living in large cities, and other factors mean it’s become increasingly important for team members to visit headquarter locations.

Gerhard Wasem, Director of Product Management, Duetto (previously, founder of MiceRate), understands this market and its challenges only too well.

“As lead times are getting closer to event dates, information has to be provided to the customer on short notice. We are also facing a younger generation, working as event planners, who are used to or even insist on automated processes and information on demand,” he told me.

“On the other hand, staffing issues in hotels mean we have a lack of experience in conference sales. This can lead to quotes being created that are not aligned with market demand and the property’s revenue strategy, leading to a loss in revenue.

“Technology can help to solve these problems by building bridges between the hotel and the customer, streamlining the quotation process,” Wasem explained.

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OpenSpace Meetings & Events Intelligence
93% recommended by 402 hotels

Tech is the Key to Capturing Your Hotel’s Fair Share of Demand

Duetto’s acquisition of MiceRate, an algorithm-based revenue management system designed for meeting and event spaces, offers a powerful solution to these challenges. By automating the booking process, providing live availability and quotes, and implementing dynamic pricing, Duetto transforms how hotels manage group sales and events.

 

With Duetto’s function space optimization technology, guests can browse live group availability in real-time

 

Duetto enhances team alignment by centralizing and streamlining the RFP and quoting process. The system consolidates various functions such as quote generation, booking engine (IBE), function sheets/BEOs, and price management. By managing event bookings and customer communications through Duetto, teams can easily track the status of each booking and respond promptly to client inquiries.

Duetto significantly improves operational efficiency through its advanced algorithm and automated processes. The system’s ability to compare historical data with current booking patterns allows it to make intelligent pricing suggestions, which can be automatically applied or manually changed by teams. The price algorithm dynamically adjusts prices based on demand, reducing the need for manual intervention and enabling quick responses to market changes.

Clients can generate their own quotes via a hotel’s website using the MiceRate event space booking engine, which calculates prices based on predefined rules and real-time data, freeing up your hotel’s sales team to focus on high-value tasks. As customers provide details about their event, Duetto calculates and displays upselling options, increasing potential revenue with minimal additional effort.

Duetto’s algorithm suggests optimal pricing based on current demand, helping hotels capture the maximum possible revenue. The transparency and speed of the self-service quoting process enhances client satisfaction, increasing the likelihood of repeat business and positive referrals. By providing real-time availability and pricing, Duetto enables hotels to respond faster and more accurately to RFPs, giving them a competitive edge in securing bookings.

“Research shows that being the first hotel to provide a quote raises the chance of acceptance by 70%. Technology can put you on top regarding speed to market in comparison to the competition,” Wasem said.

How to Grow MICE Sales at Your Property

With the technology available in 2024 it’s shocking that hotels are still missing out on high-value group sales opportunities. The reality is that RevPaR has been at a steady incline since the pandemic and some hoteliers have gotten complacent with their strategies. The most successful hoteliers know that complacency is a recipe for being disrupted and that rates won’t rise forever. When inflation cools and ADRs eventually fall, wages tend to fall more slowly leading to a perfect storm that completely zaps profitability. Combine that dynamic with an expanded compset supply in the form of alternative accommodations like short-term rentals and many hotels are unprepared for what’s to come. Hoteliers that adopt the right business tools, tactics, and processes today are going to be the ones set up for success.

 

This article was created collaboratively by Duetto and HotelTechReport.

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OpenSpace Meetings & Events Intelligence
93% recommended by 402 hotels
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Jordan Hollander
Jordan is the co-founder of Hotel Tech Report, the hotel industry's app store where millions of professionals discover tech tools to transform their businesses. He was previously on the Global Partnerships team at Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Prior to his work with SPG, Jordan was Director of Business Development at MWT Hospitality and an equity analyst at Wells Capital Management. Jordan received his MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management where he was a Zell Global Entrepreneurship Scholar and a Pritzker Group Venture Fellow.