At the recent HITEC 2023 conference in Toronto, executives from Knowland and Amadeus spoke to LODGING about the partnership their two companies formed to deliver new data insights that will allow the industry to understand key trends, measure performance, and plan for the future. Noting that meetings and events now are “back with a vengeance,” Patricia Shea, Knowland’s senior vice president, sales & customer success, and Katie Moro, Amadeus’ vice president of data partnerships, separately described how the Hospitality Group & Business Performance Index they created combines Knowland’s event data—such as attendee numbers and the volume of booked space—with Amadeus’ hotel booking data to give both individual and aggregate views of the key drivers of hotel performance. Their combined insights, they maintained, present a unique overview of group travel activity in the United States, one that can help hoteliers better keep up with the pace of change—as well as shortage of staff—that has existed in the industry in recent years.
What is the overarching objective of this index?
Moro: A significant challenge for the hotel industry is making sense of and effectively acting upon the volume of data now available about different travel groups, mainly because the data is siloed across many different vendors and parts of the business. The index brings the different data sets together to enable the industry to not only understand how groups, meetings, and events are performing but also to provide the kind of actionable insights they need to help make good business decisions.
What were some of the key findings?
Moro: Group business is almost fully back. In Q1 2023, 91 percent of events returned compared to the same period in 2019. Corporations significantly lead the way ahead of leisure events or weddings, accounting for over 66 percent of events held in Q1 2023. The top sectors hosting events—education, national associations, technology, and healthcare—together accounted for 54 percent of events. The average group size booked in Q1 2023 was 119 attendees.
How does the index help hoteliers compete in the current environment?
Shea: The index can be helpful for hoteliers who need to pivot to accommodate changes that have occurred since 2019. Everyone is excited about meetings and events coming back, but things are different. The index provides a closer look at the overall positive big picture to help hoteliers meet new demands. For example, people are now extending their business trips, so we need a strategy to capture a full week of business, not just the shoulder and the weekends.
How might this data help hoteliers maintain sales in the face of reduced staff?
Shea: In the past, the sales team usually had a sale coordinator acting as a kind of ‘lead catcher.’ With a hotel sales team that is now 60 percent of its previous size, it needs actionable information that enables everyone on the team to be a seller. With the appropriate information, rather than just sending a mass email, the sales team member can target the right people and companies and set tasks for follow-up.
What are the biggest challenges to implementation and the best ways to overcome them?
Shea: One of the biggest challenges we experience is with hotels trying to drive whatever they’re trying to drive in group business. There is so much data available, a lot of sales teams get overwhelmed. The advice that we usually give when we’re working with a hotel or an enterprise is to take very small bites. I think it’s really important to define the outcome you’re going for, then focus on the very specific actions that will drive a change.