Tactics for booking and retaining group business
by Diego Lowenstein
Travelers today continue to opt for unique lodging and find boutique hotels to be the perfect fit. So, what does it take for a unique, boutique hotel to book group business meetings?
The group meeting business is highly competitive, but not out of reach for smaller boutique hotels. To get there, boutique hotels need to play up their strengths, including thinking about size as an asset. It’s not about competing head-to-head for the large groups; it’s about finding a niche and fighting hard to do business within that niche. Consider offering a property experience that is different from the rest, and go after like-minded clientele that will embrace the uniqueness of your meeting venue. Your property will not likely appeal to every company or meeting planner looking for group event space.
Boutique hotels need to think strategically if they want to be in the competitive group meeting business. The reality is, any hotel with a significant amount of meeting space can generate its own proprietary group business. For example, luxury properties attracting and maintaining key group accounts that help thrive independently of the convention hotels in the same market. Boutique hotels have a big advantage over big brand hotels in that they enjoy more freedom in design and promotion, factors they can use to overcome competitive disadvantages like smaller physical space or a lack of access to large key counts.
Another successful tactic is to target groups more likely to want an imaginative, boutique hotel experience in the first place. It’s about going after niche businesses in more innovative industries, such as the entertainment sector or technology start-ups. These creative businesses often seek venues that encourage collaboration and idea sharing among 25 to 75 employees at a time. Many independent hotels are perfect for meeting their needs.
Once there is a strategy in place, it’s time to invest in things that will meet or exceed a group’s expectations. Don’t underestimate the power of aesthetics in attracting group meeting business. The reality is: four white walls will not inspire or excite anyone about your space. This makes investing in aesthetics even more important. Aesthetics can be tricky, however, and easily overdone. Most groups want a space that is both functional and comfortable, but also flexible so that they can make it their own.
Another investment that will pay off in the long run is getting LEED Certification. This environmentally-friendly designation can cost more up front when designing a new hotel or renovating an existing property, but it also can protect an independent hotel’s investment over the long-term. An increasing number of business groups seek out environmentally-conscious hotels.
Lastly, investing in a sales executive team that knows how to work the advantages of a boutique hotel can be helpful. Booking group meeting business requires a different proficiency than selling other hotel industry segmentations. Even if you’re a smaller, boutique-type hotel, you must be willing to invest in your team and bring those capabilities in-house. It’s very difficult to outsource that and see the same results.
Creating a higher level of personalization is a strength of smaller hotels that can help retain clients and get them to spread the word. A hotel can offer a surprise and delight guests with small efforts that can make a big difference. For example, placing signature products from a local shop on the meeting tables can contribute to the overall experience and ‘wow’ the customer. It’s also a potential win-win for a local vendor looking to promote their own business. This authentic experience will go a long way, because there is a take – home value above and beyond the meeting itself. It’s not only about collaborating for six hours a day – it’s the intangibles of people meeting and interacting outside their offices. Some smaller hotels excel at creating a unique bonding experience for group clients.
One of the most unique factors of a boutique hotel is the ability to be creative and less cookie cutter. When it comes to marketing properties, boutique hotels need to embrace what makes them different.