Hoteliers today are navigating an unprecedented and challenging economy due to COVID-19. Group business has always been a cornerstone for hotel operations, but is being challenged in an unprecedented way. While the market has seen many ups and downs over time, the challenges hoteliers face today will test even the most seasoned and focused sales teams.
While we know that there is no simple answer to address the challenges we are facing, we know that the hospitality industry is resilient and a people-first business. With a goal of enabling hoteliers to continue to bring people together when the industry moves into recovery, we believe that there are actions that can be taken now to set the stage for a brighter future.
We have leveraged our 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry and collaborated with some of our hotel partners to provide suggested best practices to help you manage manage group & event business in challenging times.
Acting Tactically Today
- Optimize your cancellation policy: Ensure that your cancellation policy encourages planners to rebook instead of cancelling outright. Just as important, make sure that your policy is as accommodating to your guests’ needs as possible and visible across all channels. Now is the time to proactively communicate with planners and give them confidence that you will act in their best interest.
- Accommodate rescheduling with additional event flexibility: Encourage rescheduling by expanding the availability of your event space. Adding additional available dates, extending operating hours, or even converting rooms to support different event types will help you get as many planners as possible to reschedule rather than cancel.
- Keep ADR strong: It seems logical to try and boost demand through lowering rates, but you must resist this temptation. If demand has stalled due to an external crisis (as it is with COVID-19), then lower rates will not generate more demand. However, lower rates now will make it more difficult to charge full price again in the future. This is true for transient stays as well as group room blocks and events.
- Create a category in your CRM to track the crisis: Use your CRM to track the business that is impacted or lost due to the crisis. Not only will you be able to better measure the impact of the crisis, it will set the foundation for following up with impacted customers when the time is right.
- Review your history: If your property has managed through past crises then looking at past data will provide insights around what type of business stuck with you before, which groups are going to rebound first, and who should be at the top of your list to reach out to.
Investing in Your Team & Space Near-Term
- Audit and update your collateral, BEOs, and banquet checks: Take the time to inventory and honestly evaluate your external facing and operational documents. Updating your sales collateral, proposals, brochures, paid media, social presence, BEOs, banquet checks, and website will set you up for success when business returns to normal.
- Send handwritten notes to valued customers: A crisis impacts us all, take the time to reach out and connect with your most valuable customers and partners thanking them for their business or asking if they would take a moment to leave a review.
- Make a prospect list: Now may not be the right time to actively sell, but it is the right time to cleanup your data and set yourself up for future prospecting efforts. Leverage the data in your sales & catering software to create a list of turned down business from the previous two years as well as local business that is likely to rebound.
- Equip your team: Take the time to provide your team with the complimentary software training and professional development courses that you know will return dividends down the road.
- Find new uses for existing event space: Leveraging community relationships to find new uses for unused event space may provide a short-term revenue bridge while also building community goodwill and future partnerships.
- Finish up the small cosmetic projects: Now is the time to paint, refresh, and make those small updates to your event space that you’ve been putting off. Refreshed event space might be the difference when it comes to booking new business in the future.
Preparing for Future Recovery
- Prepare a reopening campaign: Even if you didn’t fully suspend operations during the crisis, be prepared to let your guests and your community know that you are back and ready for their business. Create an announcement to let every planner on your list know that your property is open, turn on your media spend, and update all channels with consistent messaging.
- Communicate and implement your action plan: As you get ready to inform the community that business is returning to usual, you must reassure them of the steps you are taking to mitigate the effects of the crisis moving forward. Whether it is enhanced sanitation protocols or restrictions on certain activities, make sure you articulate clearly the steps you are taking to keep guest safety as your top priority.
- Reposition from global to local: Your local market will be the first willing to travel, as they have a better sense of the situation nearby. Creating geo-targeted “staycation” promotions can jumpstart occupancy while keeping ADR strong within the broader marketplace.
- Prospect thoughtfully: As you leverage your prospect list, prioritize local first as well as those who have booked group business at your property before.
- Understand your market and respond appropriately: Take advantage of software solutions and services that track group business trends in your market. Understand how your comp set is reacting, who is changing their rates, and if any competitors are shifting their distribution strategies.
While not an all-inclusive list, these are a few ideas that can help you manage your business in these times of uncertainty. Are there other actions you are planning? What has provided you the best results in changing markets?
We hope these best practices were useful for you to manage manage group & event business in challenging times. For more details on the specific steps you should take to manage Amadeus sales and catering software during a closure, read our blog, “How to Manage Software Once Your Hotel Suspends Services”.
As an additional resource, we invite you to view our webinar recording, which discusses how to build a data-driven strategy to manage your business today and plan for the future.