Around $60 billion a year is generated through group bookings for the US hotel market alone and, increasingly, specialised tech is playing an important role in capturing this business.
NB This is a viewpoint by Tim Hentschel, CEO of hotelplanner.com.
HotelPlanner has within the past week reached a significant milestone, reaching its three millionth group booking. Combining a cutting-edge online booking system with personalized service, it is meeting the needs of today's increasingly sophisticated group planners,
Here are some trends in the market we have noticed.
The growth in leisure group bookings
Hoteliers need to keep pace with not only the ever-increasing expectations of forward-thinking group customers but also the increase in the number of leisure customers making these demands,
According to the U.S. Travel Association’s latest travel trends index (TTI), domestic leisure travel has increased and remains the industry’s fastest growing segment.
Our own experience bears this out. HotelPlanner is seeing a 30% growth in the leisure group market year over year and leisure groups represent around 2,000 of the 3,000 groups we process worldwide every day. More than $3.2 billion in total group revenue will be placed through the HotelPlanner system in 2016.
Low cost of distribution through group bookings
Food and beverage, space rental and other ancillary costs will comprise 42% of this revenue sent to HotelPlanner’s partners, while sleeping room revenues will comprise the other 58%. A hotel paying commission on the sleeping room, at industry-standard rates, benefits from a low cost of distribution because the ancillaries drive up the total revenue per available room, putting our cost of distribution margin at below 4% of TREVPAR. These cost savings to the hotelier are made possible largely through improved technology.
eContracting - efficient and ecological
Earlier this year, HotelPlanner launched eContracting by customizing the DocuSign platform for hospitality, allowing hotels to digitally send, sign, manage and receive signatures for group contracts. This process makes it faster and easier to finalize bookings, 100% digitally, at no additional cost. Best of all, the new contracting capabilities are environmentally friendly, saving hotels money on document printing and storage.
Flexible packaging: bespoke events
In an ever-changing group travel and events market, today’s group planner wants to tailor each event for maximum impact. Flexible event packaging can help group planners create a package “in real-time” by combining and selling event tickets (i.e. sporting events, convention registration, etc.) with hotel rooms at properties close to the event venue.
Technology can give planners the flexibility to offer attendees a wide selection of hotels close to the where the event is taking place, creating differentiated offerings across different price points.
Localized services: humans behind the machine
It’s evident that still more needs to be done to educate hoteliers about current consumer trends which will dictate the future growth of the group travel industry. Group planners require more than savvy tech to deliver a memorable event, which is why high-touch personalized service needs to be an integral part of any tech business. The human element can be delivered by assigning each group booking a regional planner with local knowledge and contacts.
And in an increasingly globalised world, native language capabilities - online or in person - are essential to fully exploit the market potential.
As group events and planners worldwide become increasingly more numerous and the demands for the event to be truly memorable intensify, the demands on the technology become more intense.
Remember, one-in-three hotels rooms are booked within a group block and this is worth $60-billion dollars in the US alone.
Online continues to grow its share of these bookings in response to how far travel service providers have progressed in giving consumers the customization they need. But this has raised consumer expectations and put the pressure on the group booking tech providers to keep innovating and improving their products and business models.
NB This is a viewpoint by Tim Hentschel, CEO of hotelplanner.com. It appears here as part of Tnooz's sponsored content initiative.