As the busy summer begins to wind down here in North America, lodging operators may be pondering ways to keep the momentum going. (Or perhaps you’re just breathing a sigh of relief!) Shoulder and low seasons present a challenge in terms of maintaining occupancy rates and, while you may appreciate a respite after the peak-season madness, most lodging operators would like to up the number of guests during the quieter months. With transient bookings on the decrease, now’s a good time to think about luring groups.
The economic downturn is behind us and group bookings are making a comeback. In the business world, the way people are working is changing; virtual offices are increasingly common with more and more individuals working remotely and this is creating a need for on-demand meeting spaces. According to LiquidSpace, an online marketplace for finding and booking meeting rooms, hotels are the fastest-growing on-demand office space in the U.S.. If your property has some great work areas, even local customers can help boost revenue through hourly bookings.
In this post, though, we’re thinking beyond hourly bookings and aiming for occupied guestrooms, preferably bunches of them in a single booking. Let’s run with this idea of hotels as on-demand office space — the next step is to get your business guests to stay a while. Marketing your property as event space will appeal not only to companies running seminars, conferences and team-building weekends but also to event planners and individuals organizing personal gatherings like weddings and reunions.
Even if your property doesn’t have event-friendly facilities like conference space, catering services or an on-site restaurant, you can still attract groups with special rates and packages. Think about running special group rates during a major local event or offering packages that include activities — this type of value-added pricing attracts friends and families traveling as a group. You could even offer special group rates catering to guest overflow from a nearby hotel during a large conference.
Worth the Effort
Obviously, the great thing about any kind of group is that they fill multiple rooms in one pop. Even still, the challenges of managing group bookings can be a put-off. The group booking process is more complicated and takes more time than the booking process for individuals. There are contracts, room preferences, room blocks, booking and cancellation cut-offs, billing terms, incidental charges, and the complexities of group check-out to worry about. If your property management system (PMS) isn’t up to the task, group bookings can be a real headache.
But the fact still remains: groups guarantee numerous occupied room nights, which, during the off season, is a blessing and well worth the extra effort. And with the right PMS, managing groups can even be close to effortless.
Group Bookings & Your PMS
Some PMS are more group-friendly than others. A PMS like WebRezPro is designed with group bookings in mind and offers a convenient way to manage all reservations for a group in one spot.
WebRezPro’s Group Folios feature allows you to easily manage all aspects of a group’s stay, from proposal to individual reservations to check-out. Setting up a group’s reserved room allocation and special rates, adding individual reservations, and processing deposits and payments can all be done directly through the group’s folio.
With WebRezPro’s group folios you can:
>> Record all information needed to determine availability and contract details (contact details, check-in and check-out dates, room requirements, booking and cancellation cut-offs, etc.).
>> Email quotes and confirmations.
>> Set up reserved room allocations and special rates.
>> Add notes and set alarms.
>> Add and manage individual reservations within the group.
>> Assign an access code to the group to let them book online through the WebRezPro booking engine.
>> Set the group folio to automatically create separate guest profiles for each reservation.
>> Apply deposits.
>> Add incidental charges (like breakfast or spa treatments) to the master account or individual reservations.
>> Manage room changes and early and late check-ins/check-outs.
>> Apply payments to the group or as separate payments to individual reservations.
With all information conveniently organized into a single folio, WebRezPro’s group folios help prevent even the smallest details from slipping through the cracks, ensuring all administrative processes are completed on time and that each and every guest within the group receives your best customer care.
And group folios really do take the stress out of group check-outs. Whether one person is paying for the lot or the bill is being split among the individual guests, the group folio keeps clear track of who has paid for what and what remains to be paid for.
A PMS that offers effective management of group bookings is integral to the success of hosting groups at your property and will reflect directly on your guest service and revenue.
Bring ‘Em On!
So, now that you’re ready to welcome groups to your property, how do you get them in through the door? Here are some simple ways to get the word out:
>> Advertise group specials on your website and social media channels.
>> If you offer event hosting for business seminars, weddings or reunions, etc., make sure you include information about those services on your website.
>> Use your email marketing campaigns to inform subscribers about group specials and event hosting services.
Here’s to a lucrative low season!