Filling multiple rooms on a single reservation, group bookings are a cost-effective way to maximize occupancy, especially during the shoulder season. Group bookings for both corporate and personal events (such as weddings and reunions) have traditionally been the territory of large hotel brands and conference centers, but times are changing. Event planners, much like travelers in general, are beginning to favor unique, authentic local experiences and the venues that can provide them. Independent hotels and lodgings are perfectly poised for capturing and managing group bookings.
How to Attract Group Bookings
Event planners choose venues based on various factors, from location to amenities to price. Make sure what you’re offering appeals to event organizers.
You don’t need a banquet hall or a conference room to appeal to groups, but you will need space for people to gather. A meeting room is crucial for corporate groups. Think creatively about the spaces your property already has—perhaps a rarely used, spacious office would be more profitable as a meeting room, or a guest room could be converted?
Lawns and gardens can make a delightful summer setting for weddings and other private events, with canopies and tables set up for receptions. Think lawn games, a small stage for live music, fairy lights and the like for a special outdoor event setting. If your property offers an on-site restaurant, consider setting aside an area for group functions or booking it out completely for larger group bookings.
Take another look at your communal spaces, like your lobby, lounges, etc.; do they invite people to relax and mingle? Such spaces can be especially appealing to corporate groups wanting to wind down after a long day. Read our tips on making the most of your lobby for ideas.
Group Rates & Packages
Entice event organizers with group rates that offer discounted rooms, or package additional services that appeal to groups, such as activities, breakfast and early check-in/late check-out.
Amenities & Services
Make sure you offer everything a group will need to make their stay and event as smooth and enjoyable as possible. In addition to staple amenities like strong WiFi, breakfast, and tea and coffee, you should be able to provide audio-visual equipment, seating, catering services, photography services, laundry service, etc. as needed. If you don’t provide such amenities in-house, establish relationships with local suppliers so that you can offer these contracted services for your customers’ convenience. The easier you can make the event planner’s job, the more likely they’ll book your property.
Make it easy for group organizers to book through your website with an online booking engine that allows them to book multiple rooms at once and access their special group rate.
Spread the Word
Lastly, make sure the world knows your property is a great venue for events. Advertise amenities, services, rates and packages for groups on your website, preferably on a page dedicated to information about event bookings. Promote your property as an event venue on social media, through your local business association or chamber of commerce, and/or on an online event venue directory.
How to Manage Group Bookings
Group bookings are great for your bottom line but are also more challenging to manage than transient reservations. Contracts, room blocks, invoicing and group check-in/check-out can get complicated without the right processes and technology in place.
A property management system (PMS) that offers group booking functionality will make managing groups much simpler. If you want to welcome groups to your property, here are some features to look for in a PMS:
Group folios allow you to manage all reservations within a group from a single folio. In addition to compiling all reservations within a group, a group folio should provide a central point of control for managing all aspects of a group booking, from tracking contract status and deposits, to setting up room blocks and rates, to managing rooming lists, reservations, charges, payments, invoicing and group check-in and check-out.
Make sure your PMS allows you to set up room and rate allocations for groups, which will make managing room blocks much easier—from booking the group rate to tracking room pick-up to setting release dates for unsold room allocations.
Look for a group edit feature that simplifies working from rooming lists and speeds up the group check-in and check-out process by allowing you to edit multiple reservations at once, including assigning rooms.
Group Invoicing & Payments
Your PMS should provide the option of applying charges and payments to a master invoice or to individual reservations within the group, so that you can bill groups the way they want. The group folio should also clearly show any outstanding charges for the group to help ensure the bill is paid in full upon check-out.
Online Group Bookings
Extend the convenience of online bookings to all your customers, including groups. Make sure your PMS provides an integrated, commission-free online booking engine for your property’s website that allows group bookers to access their group rate. This is commonly done through a special access code assigned to the allocated rate. Once a group booking is made, the online booking engine should send it to the PMS where it’s automatically posted to the group folio.
As we head into the shoulder season, make sure your property is ready for group bookings to boost occupancy and revenue. With the right PMS, managing group reservations doesn’t have to be complicated. Contact us to find out more about how WebRezPro PMS makes group bookings easy.