An Independent Hotelier’s Guide to Easy Group Bookings

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.

Communal Spaces

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.

Online Bookings

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

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.

Reserved Allocation

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.

Group Check-in/Check-out

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.

Positive Outlook for Group Bookings in the New Year — Be Ready!

The New Year is just around the corner and it brings good news for North American hoteliers! TravelClick’s November 2016 North American Hospitality Review revealed that committed occupancy and ADR are showing major signs of growth in the first quarter of 2017, particularly for the group segment for which occupancy is up 6.8 percent.

Looking ahead over the next 12 months, committed room nights for group bookings are up 3.8 percent year over year and ADR is up 2.6 percent (compared to transient bookings, which are up 2.7 percent, with ADR up 2.0 percent).

Booking multiple rooms in one pop is great for business, but group bookings can also be complicated with contracts to negotiate, room allocations and reservations to track, not to mention group check-ins/outs. Without a modern reservation system, the complexities of managing group bookings can deter hoteliers from actively pursuing group business, which is a shame considering how profitable it can be.

Managing group bookings shouldn’t be a headache. With the right reservation system, hosting groups at your property can be a breeze. Below, we’ve compiled a list of features any group-friendly reservation system should offer.

Group Folios

Group folios provide a convenient way to manage group bookings by assembling all individual reservations within the group into one single folio, providing an overview of bookings and balances and ensuring nothing gets missed. From a group folio, such tasks can be managed as tracking contract status, deposits, and cut-off dates, setting up reserved allocations (room blocks and rates), managing rooming lists, adding and modifying reservations, applying incidental charges and payments, and generating master and individual invoices. Group folios make checking groups in and out fast and easy too. Let’s take a closer look at how group folios help streamline these processes.

Reserved Allocations

Group bookings typically require room blocks and special rates, so it’s key for a reservation system to offer this function. Attached to the group folio, a reserved allocation makes it easy to book the group rate and track room pick-up. This function should also allow you to set a release date for any unsold reserved rooms to be released back into regular inventory.

Reservation Management and Group Check-in/out

Managing reservations is one of the most crucial things to get right when dealing with group bookings, yet this can be the trickiest task to stay on top of. A group folio greatly simplifies group reservation management by providing a single point from which to add, edit and view all reservations within a group. In addition, existing independent reservations should be able to be added to a guest folio in case any bookings are initially mistaken as independent from the group.

A guest folio focused on efficient reservation management should offer a handy group edit feature that allows staff to add and edit multiple reservations at once, including assigning rooms and checking numerous guests in (or out) at once for quick and painless group check-ins.

It’s also important that a group folio feature creates separate guest profiles in the system for each reservation so that any guest can be recognized if they return for another stay.

Online Bookings

The ability to book online is a convenience most guests now expect as part of good customer service. The same holds true for group customers.

Your online booking system should be directly integrated with your reservation system for live rates and availability, and it should offer the ability for customers to access their special group rate. This can be done through the use of an access code, which is attached to the allocated rate and allows only customers with the code to book the special rate. Once booked, the reservation should be automatically sent to the reservation system and posted to the group folio.

Invoicing and Payments

A group folio makes it easy to keep track of a group’s charges and payments, and should allow both charges (including auxiliary charges such as catering and spa services) and payments to be applied to the master invoice or individual reservations. A group-friendly system should be able to generate a master invoice (or statement of account) for the group as well as invoices for individual reservations.

Come check-out time, a group folio makes it easy to view any unpaid balance for the group, ensuring no revenue slips through the cracks.

Managing group bookings doesn’t have to be a chore. With a reservation system built to handle groups, properties can take full advantage of this profitable market. Contact us here at WebRezPro for a free demo of our group-friendly property management system.

What Do Your Guests Want for Christmas? Top Ideas for the Holidays.

‘Twas the night before Christmas and you have hung your stockings by the chimney with care. But if you’ve played your (Christmas) cards right, you better hope there are creatures stirring! Not that we want to call your guests creatures…but you get the idea.

Is your property ready to pack guests in over the holidays? There’s much more you can offer guests than a tree in your lobby. From special Christmas stay and play packages to Santa receptions, this blog post is bursting with ideas fit for sugar plum fairies.

Wrap it Up with Holiday Packages

Many families and couples like to get away during the holidays and, for some, staying at a hotel for Christmas is part of their tradition. Along with offering packages that incorporate winter activities, consider packages that are valid over Christmas specifically. Our post about Value-Added Packages will give you some idea on how to do this.

Some package ideas include:

>> Christmas supper or a discount voucher at the restaurant.

>> Packages to area attractions: hot springs, ski passes, shopping mall voucher for Boxing Day sales.

>> Group accommodation with activities your property might want to offer, such as sleigh rides. WebRezPro has an activity module to make grouping activities with accommodation bookings a cinch. And if you don’t offer activities at your lodging directly, the module makes it easy to set up partnerships with local activity operators.

Personalization for High Elf Esteem

Personalized service is becoming more and more expected among guests, especially those staying at luxury lodgings. The Christmas season provides another opportunity for you to spoil your guests to make them feel special. Families staying with young children could be offered a visit from Santa. Or how about simple ornaments (like stockings) with guests’ names on them? Any Christmas-themed welcome amenity is sure to add a special touch. Don’t forget a Christmas cookie turndown.

Specialty Programming for Happy Holidays

It’s the simple things that make the holidays special. What can you offer your guests during the holidays that can give them a taste of home? We’ve seen lodgings offer cookie decorating, movie nights and family bingo. Guests can also get cozy in their rooms with a selection of holiday DVDs to watch. Or offer the magic of Christmas with Mrs. Claus’ story time and elf tuck-ins.

Group Bookings for the Gift of Presence

Market your lodging’s group booking capabilities during the holidays to cater to the Christmas crowd. Group bookings are a great idea if your property hosts holiday gatherings. Think corporate parties with multiple room bookings for those who wish to stay overnight. You can further entice guests in these instances with special rates and packages. WebRezPro is a group-friendly property management system with Group Folios that allow you to easily manage group bookings, while maintaining individual charges at the same time. Another idea is to market yourself as a central meeting place for large families. Imagine there is not enough “room at the inn” for all family members to stay at a relative’s house; suggest your property can host everyone for a hassle-free Christmas where no one has to wash the dishes afterward. It just makes frankin’ sense.

Gift Certificates for Those on the Nice List

In your promotions, website and social media channels, don’t forget to promote gift certificates for your lodging. Gift vouchers are the perfect Christmas gift that can be used toward accommodations, spa services, your restaurant…you name it! Offer straightforward certificates in a range of denominations or create packages for purchase, like spa and tea treatments, luxury breaks, or romance meals.

Merry and Bright

And of course, don’t forget about that tree in the lobby…and various other decorations around your lodging for a feast for the eyes…but don’t forget the nose! We’ve seen a hotel offer mulled cider at reception, with an unforgettable Christmas aroma.

Use decorating as an opportunity to team build by hosting a pre-season Christmas party for your staff, which includes decking the halls with boughs of holly. It could help everyone get into the spirit. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, don’t you know!

With all these ideas, yule definitely be wishing a happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Bring On Group Bookings!

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!