Hotel Group Sales Blog

Optimizing Groups Sales, Revenue & Cost

The time has come for meeting room booking engine on hotel websites

What is a meeting booking engine?

A booking engine is software that allows people visiting a hotel’s website to book rooms online without having to contact the hotel over the phone. Regular booking engines enable users to book bedrooms or guest rooms as they are more commonly known in hotelier speak. So, a meeting booking engine allows the visitor to book meetings online on the hotel’s website. These are more powerful engines that encompass rooms, meeting space, Food & Beverage, Audio Visual and other add-ons that are required for a successful meeting.

Who uses meeting booking engine? 

Large chains like Hilton and Marriott recognized some time ago that there is a demand for booking meetings online, especially the smaller meetings, and have implement these engines on their website. Other large chains and even smaller chains are either looking into it or are in some stage of implementation.

Why do we need a meeting booking engine?

Hotel Group Sales Challenges

The current state of the meeting industry has created specific challenges to the hotel group sales teams that can be solved to a certain extent using a meeting booking engine. The following infographic depicts the problems and the impacts of those problems to hotel group sales teams.


The proliferation of Requests for Proposal

A survey by Meeting Professionals International, the largest meeting and event industry association worldwide, found that RFPs had increased 300% over the previous 5 years. Does this mean there are 3 times as many meetings? Not really, it just means that meeting organizers are choosing to get more proposals for their events, enabled in part by the advent of websites that send RFPs to multiple venues and help compare results.

Reducing Conversion Rates

While more proposals help organizers make better decisions, it also means that hotel sales teams are sending out a lot more proposals with a lot less chance of winning the bid. In fact, industry figures estimate that the current probability of a proposal converting to actual business is less 5%. Put another way, for every 20 proposals sent out, hotels are happy to even convert one group.

Reducing Quality and Time Spent on Proposals

A typical proposal takes about 30 minutes to complete.  Larger more complicated requests need internal meeting and decisions making and take hours and days to complete, and the sales manager at the hotel is hard pressed for time. As sales people are forced to send more and more proposal, the quality of those proposals have to suffer, and they tend to send more boilerplate proposals in response to RFPs. This means not personalizing the response to the industry or specific customers which reduces conversion. But even worse is when specific questions from organizers are not answered in a rush to send more proposals. This further aggravates the problem of low conversion by reducing the conversion ratio further.

Increasing Response Times

The heavy demand on hotel sales managers also means that some of the proposals end up being delayed or sometimes missed when an RFP has a set due date and time. A Harvard Business Review study found that when customers are 7X more likely to convert when contacted within the first hour of the request. The delayed response reduces conversion even more.

Time Spent on Small Meetings

Industry data indicates that close 80% of the meeting are what are considered smaller meetings that produce a lot less revenue for the hotel. While RFPs for these smaller meetings are easier to respond to and takes lesser time, the competition is still stiff and not sending a good proposal reduces conversion. This leads to sales managers spending a lot of time on small meetings that probably follow the 80-20 rule and only produce about 20% of meeting revenue for a hotel, thus spending less time on larger revenue business.

The Result – Sales Teams that don’t have time to sell

Given all the statistics in the above paragraphs, it’s evident that sales teams have quite a load just responding to incoming proposals that have a low conversion rate and a lot of the time is spent on small meetings that are not high revenue generators. The result is that sales teams spend very little to no time on actual proactive selling that can land hotels large and lucrative clients. In fact, another survey found that hotels sales managers only spend 15% of their time on proactive sales. I’ll let that sink in. Only 15% on proactive sales. Essentially they are doing paperwork 85% of the time.

The Solution – Online Meeting Booking

One obvious solution to the overload is to introduce the ability for customers, especially the ones looking for smaller meetings (remember the 80%?) to booking their meetings online. This brings up many questions around user acceptance and feasibility of meeting booking engines in the minds of many hoteliers we met. Again, we look at data to answer these questions.


User Acceptance

Industry surveys show that 39% of meetings have a lead time of less than 4 weeks. The lesser period of time available to plan the meetings makes it imperative for meeting planners to get quick responses in order to meet their timelines. In fact, an overwhelming 83% thought hotels were too slow and wanted a faster response.

A large number of meeting planners already user e-RFPs and other booking tools for online meetings and are familiar with the online format. 80% of the organizers surveyed said they will be willing to book meetings online if it facilitated their need for a faster response.

It’s evident from data that meeting organizers are not only willing to accept online booking, but demand a faster response, whether online or not. Further, there were about 25% of the respondents who said they don’t consider hotels for small meetings if they don’t have an online solution.

Feasibility

Another concern for hoteliers we hear often is that meetings have many customizations and building such an engine will be too complex and unusable. To this objection, we call to your attention portals like Instagathering.com, facilemeeting.com, and meetingbooker.com that have enabled bookings worth several million dollars from organizers in spite of the relatively low investment that has gone into these portals. It’s only a matter of time before a large percentage of meetings are booked online and it’s imperative that hotels implement a meeting booking engine so they are not too late to the game and are ready to take online meeting bookings when they do become the norm.

 

GroupRevMax Booking Engine

GroupRevMax has such a booking engine, whose feasibility is proven by many bookings online from its owned portals of Instagathering.com and FacileMeeting.com. To get more information or to book a demo, please click here.


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