Attracting Meetings and Conventions to Your Hotel
Regency Hotel Management’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Gloriann Kueter, works with 52 sales leaders in over 40 U.S. hotels. One of her goals is to help show meeting planners not only why Regency hotels make an excellent venue, but also why they’re more appealing than area competitors. Gloriann shares her over 20 years of hotel marketing experience, detailing what planners value and what has and hasn’t changed in the industry.
How are Regency Hotels marketing meeting spaces?
With our nearly 40 hotel and resort properties, we currently have 52 sales leaders talking and negotiating with meeting and event planners every day. We’ve found the most effective way to market to qualified planners is by utilizing specific online marketing strategies and partnering with key third-party companies who specialize in working with companies and groups that use a request for proposal tool. In addition, we make training a top priority and keep informed on how to find qualified group meeting and event planners on the Internet.
Are meeting planner rewards programs still effective?
Yes. Generally speaking, group planner rewards programs with points or value-added items work very well. Booking groups is highly competitive. The sales manager has to ask the planner the right questions to learn what kind of planner perk is the most valuable to the planner and group. What the sales manager learns from the planner is key to negotiating with and securing the group.
For some groups, we’ve learned that adding value and saving the group money is most important. For others, the planner is given permission to redeem the perk.
What is a successful way to attract first-time groups?
Referrals from an existing meeting planner are our number one way of gaining trust and confidence to attract first-time groups. It’s an automatic obstacle that we’ve overcome. We do our best to impress every group that walks through our hotel’s doors. You never know what other business it could get you.
What about repeat groups?
Assuming the group planner and their attendees are happy with our hospitality and facilities, 99% of the time we will rebook them if they have a future meeting. Our sales managers do an excellent job forming and maintaining a professional and friendly relationship. When they follow up with their customer contact about future bookings, it’s typically very easy to rebook their group.
What do you think is the most important thing for meeting planners when they’re choosing a location?
First and foremost, the planner decides the city, area of the city, and hotel needs (that is, number of guestrooms, meeting space, and meals). Once our property meets their space requirements, our sales manager communicates with them to learn what is most important. Then, the negotiation begins.
Before this process even starts, it’s important to highlight things to do in the area to attract planners to your city. You can also partner with your local Convention and Visitors Bureau to make sure your venue has a presence on other sites that planners use. Then, once you have a meeting planner considering your location, set your hotel apart from the competition with engaging videos or property photos.
What trends have you noticed in the industry that successful hotel meeting and convention centers are doing to win business?
Some things haven’t changed in the convention business, like including a lot of services in the agreement. What has changed is the type of services. All groups expect free Wi-Fi and a complimentary space for a meal, even though this always depends on the number of guestrooms and incidental revenue the hotel will receive.
Having reliable Wi-Fi is also crucial. Skift just released a report on convention Wi-Fi, stating that the increasing number of wearables and connected devices is increasing demands on hotel networks. You need to ensure your Wi-Fi will continue to support your attendees increasing use for future events.
To win group business, it has become fairly common to offer a reward to the group to save their attendees or the company money, or to offer the planner a higher commission. Complimentary VIP gifts and suites are still a standard in exchange for the total revenue spent by the group.
What’s your winning strategy?
Meeting planners have an abundance of hotels and resorts to choose from. They can find all hotel information on the Internet and request proposals from several hotels with just a few keystrokes. Because of this, it’s more important than ever before to treat all customers with professional friendship, to give the meeting planner and all attendees more hospitality than they are expecting, and to never take an existing customer for granted.
If we don’t take excellent care of our customers, we know they can move to our competitors at any time. Moreover, several companies and groups regularly rotate around the region. Many of them are holding less meetings with less attendees, so it’s critical that our sales managers spend time looking for new business and fostering relationships.