Group travel has been one of the hardest
hit areas of hospitality as
a result of the pandemic. Large events have been
continuously cancelled or rescheduled, family and friend rendezvous have been
postponed, and hoteliers have had to navigate a very different environment with
fewer staff and less predictability than ever before.
With seven months to go in the year, there
is still significant potential for the industry to surpass
pre-pandemic levels. However, this
adjustments from hoteliers to capitalize on growing demand
since today’s meetings and events look and feel different from
In order to help
hoteliers plan for this new era, Amadeus combined
insight from industry experts with business intelligence data to identify
key forces shaping group business. The research
revealed five major
group travel behavior
to Amadeus’ Demand360 data, hotels in
unexpected destinations are seeing increases in group travel bookings this
year. While some U.S. cities like Orlando and New Orleans remain popular,
non-traditional locations like Anchorage, Alaska and Tuscaloosa, Alabama are
unusually in the top 20 markets for 2022. Compare this against a dynamic city
like San Francisco, which is experiencing lower occupancy when compared to
groups traveling are not only trying new markets but doing so with fewer
people. In 2022, Amadeus MeetingBroker data shows 63% of event RFPs (requests
for proposal) have been for groups of 50 people or less compared to 58% in
2019. In addition, the average lead-in time for an RFP has shortened from 223
days in 2019 to 193 days in 2021.
2. Lean teams have to do more with less
shortages are nothing new in hospitality, but when it comes to sales and
operations, things have gotten tough. Sales teams are having to restructure to
handle a higher volume of smaller deals, with less commission and reduced
staff. Reward structures need
to be re-evaluated across the board to ensure they match the type of sales on
offer and the requirements of the sales teams as they stand today, not
teams are also feeling the pinch when it comes to the on-property experience of
groups. With less headcount, there is a limit to how many groups a property can
serve with the operational staff available. Adopting technology to manage disruptions related
to COVID-19 while streamlining and automating daily tasks can put hotels in a
much better position to react to the current environment.
3. Hybrid and
in-person meetings are here to stay
meetings and events are now an established part of business travel thanks to
significant technology advancements supporting remote work. But this trend has
added to the workload for hotels at a time when human resources are scarce, so
managers need to ensure they have the ability and know how to deliver on the
technical elements of the event. Hiring a third-party vendor to lift the
technical and administrative burden from in-house staff may be worthwhile,
since service expectations from guests remain high.
Hybrid events are a major contributor to the
trend towards smaller group size, but they reinforce the need for hotels to
deliver an outstanding on-property meeting and event experience. It’s important
that attendees and businesses alike feel the benefit of traveling to an event
and meeting in person, because today there are viable options for staying home.
The on-property experience is a vital part of the hybrid package and feedback
from attendees will be business critical for hotels looking at return bookings
and positive sentiment.
4. Meeting planner relationships will
be (even more) key
data shows that RFPs from meeting planners increased by 51% in 2021 compared to
2020, which is fantastic news for the industry. As group travel returns,
competition will too, making speed of response to RFPs more important – the old
adage of the faster the response, the more likely the deal still rings true.
Hoteliers need integrated solutions to help them answer
quickly, accurately, and profitably.
technology is only one piece of the puzzle. As negotiations remain competitive,
nurturing planner relationships will be key in this climate. Meeting planners
are finding themselves in a strong position when it comes to the terms and
conditions they can request of their hotel prospects, and greatly appreciate a
degree of flexibility in terms of food and beverage commitments and/or project
timelines. This is another area where real-time market data can help hoteliers make
the right decision on whether to respond to the RFP and what lengths are
sensible to go to.
partnerships are unlocking new potential
alliances between hotels and businesses are helping to broaden reach and secure
bookings as global organizations continue to innovate the way they work,
including when and where they hold meetings. This new paradigm has created
demand for function space and meeting rooms for employees to meet, either
informally for social-led interactions or more formally for business meetings.
Some major hotel chains have created enticing packages for business travelers
who need a space to work during the day, plus a venue for evening entertainment
with clients and colleagues.
Another way for hoteliers to grow new revenue
streams is to negotiate interesting partnerships with similar properties in the
same market or neighboring regions, giving guests access to amenities or
function space in both properties with potential upsell opportunities.
For large multi-brand groups or hotel management
companies, a CRM solution is a must to share leads across brands and global
regions. This helps to keep all bookings within the portfolio – if the Crowne
Plaza Midtown is booked, perhaps there’s room at the Crowne Plaza in Times
Square. Watching the market and thinking differently is the name of the game to
unlock new potential.
the picture for 2022 continues to evolve, Amadeus data is showing considerable
cause for optimism for the return of group hotel business in the U.S. But it
would be a mistake to approach the rebound as “business as usual.” Behavioral
changes around group travel as well as the inescapable labor shortages
hoteliers are grappling with mean that a fresh perspective has to be taken on
how to plan for, pitch, execute and ultimately reward group travel in 2022 and