Three hotel brands last week announced solutions to help meeting planners design and book events that meet the needs of attendees in today’s pandemic environment: Marriott International is expanding its “Connect with Confidence” program with new hybrid meeting solutions that will be available in March; IHG, in partnership with Groups360, is rolling out GroupSync Engage, an integrated direct booking solution for groups that includes both meeting space and guestrooms; and Omni Hotels & Resorts announced its Ready, Set, Go Hybrid with Omni program for virtual and hybrid in-person events.
Marriott Expands Hyrbid Meeting Solutions
Marriott International announced new resources for hybrid meetings and events, including providers and pricing, at Marriott hotels across the United States and Canada. Made available in March, the resources are slated to be available globally in the near future.
Hybrid meetings have become an essential way for meeting and event professionals to provide an immersive, engaging experience that integrates both virtual participation and in-person experiences through technology. Marriott has curated a list of providers including Encore, Cvent, Convene, MeetingPlay, and Hopin that offer technology solutions for hosting hybrid meetings. These providers offer a range of features and services that allow meeting and event professionals to execute hybrid meetings across the Marriott portfolio of hotels in the United States and Canada.
Marriott has hosted Connect with Confidence meetings for its customers using the latest hybrid meeting technology. The most recent event included 100 in-person attendees and 800 virtual attendees at Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center in January 2021. The attendees were given information about planning and implementing an in-person event incorporating cleanliness protocols, physical and social distancing, redesigned food and beverage, contactless check-in, well-being checks, occupancy monitoring, and more. Survey results from this event revealed that 51 percent of meeting and event professionals are planning to host a hybrid event within the next six to 12 months. When attendees were asked if they would attend another event if it were to be designed with the same principles, 95 percent said they would. Marriott shared insights and best practices from this meeting and others in its Connect with Confidence Hybrid Meetings and Events Insights Guide, which showcases the journey and offers guidance to design and implement hybrid events.
The Connect with Confidence event at Gaylord Rockies was held weeks after Marriott introduced optional health protocols for meeting and event professionals, including COVID-19 testing. The event implemented many of the protocols, which meeting and event professionals are now able to incorporate into their own group meetings at Marriott hotels in the United States and Canada.
IHG and Groups360 Launch GroupSync Engage
Groups360 and IHG Hotels & Resorts last week announced the release of GroupSync Engage, the hospitality industry’s first integrated direct booking solution for groups to include both meeting space and guestrooms. IHG is the first brand to launch the streamlined instant booking capability on the platform, which will initially be available at approximately 30 hotels in the United States in the coming weeks.
GroupSync Engage offers an online booking solution for meeting and event planners and hotel brands. Event planners can now book guestrooms, meeting space, or both in a convenient, online transaction. This initial rollout marks the first of many deployments of GroupSync Engage with IHG during 2021.
Kemp Gallineau, CEO of Groups360, commented, “We have been working with IHG Hotels & Resorts to deliver greater value to the meetings and events customer. We believe that the future of booking meetings will be direct and online, especially for smaller and less complicated events. Our collaboration with IHG will extend to more IHG Hotels & Resorts throughout the U.S. and Canada in 2021.”
Gallineau noted that the GroupSync Engage solution enhances the relationship between planners and suppliers by offering, for the first time, real-time availability and group rates for both meeting space and guestrooms, so planners can book a meeting or event completely online. Simplifying booking eases the planners’ workload and frees up hotel staff and resources, which are critical issues during this period of recovery for the hospitality industry.
This instant booking capability also allows customers to customize their event by selecting food and beverage options, audiovisual needs, and meeting room configuration.
Omni’s Ready, Set, Go Hybrid
Omni Hotels & Resorts announced its newest solution for meeting professionals who are planning virtual and hybrid in-person events: Ready, Set, Go Hybrid with Omni. The program brings a new level of production quality and support for its customers’ presentations, small meetings, and/or full-scale hybrid events.
Intended to simplify the process for Omni’s clients, the brand used direct customer feedback to design options for the simplest to the most complex event requirements, whether for individuals, collaborative meetings, or large-scale events with attendees in multiple locations. In each scenario, production elements such as audio, cameras, lighting, and the latest technology components are integrated with professional support solutions for high-quality outcomes.
Omni is partnering with its event production partner, Encore, to provide these solutions, which integrate Omni’s Safe & Clean and MeetSAFE from Encore guidelines. The Omni Virtual Studio option provides a solution for individuals or small groups looking to transition from a home or office environment with distractions, a lack of technical support, or subpar bandwidth for presentation stability. Omni Hybrid Small Meeting for up to 15 in-person attendees provides the flexibility to scale as needed, whether for collaborative discussions, presenter-focused meetings, or those who require a more robust solution versus a simple virtual call. This option includes multiple camera displays and sound reinforcements to enhance the in-room and remote experience to create a shared environment catered toward improving participant engagement. Omni Hybrid Your Way is best suited for groups larger than 15 and those who have an event that requires a more complex dynamic set up with multiple cameras, displays, and sound reinforcements to enhance both the in-room and remote experience. This option better allows for interactive elements such as gamification, voting, or connecting audiences and presenters across multiple Omni venues and locations.
“As we’ve heard from our clients, hybrid is here to stay for a while, and they are facing new challenges and changes as they plan upcoming events for both in-person and virtual attendees,” said Dan Surette, chief sales officer at Omni Hotels & Resorts. “The Ready, Set, Go Hybrid with Omni options are specifically designed to help our clients navigate these new challenges with confidence and ease. We’ve always been proud of our team’s ability to create, customize and execute memorable events, and these options allows us to continue to deliver excellent service in this new virtual and hybrid meeting landscape.”