OperationsSeven Ways Hoteliers Can Foster Better Partnerships With Meeting Planners

Seven Ways Hoteliers Can Foster Better Partnerships With Meeting Planners

The meetings and events business continues to draw visitors from around the world to the most desired destinations. The path back seems smoother than ever for hoteliers who are getting their groove back. Indeed, the meetings industry continues to be an essential revenue driver for increasing profitability for hotels of almost any size. For meeting planners, however, the story may be a little different.

As businesses turn to meeting planners to ensure their events are held on time, at the most attractive venue, and within budget, those same planners are looking to their hotel partners to help them deliver the expected results more than ever before. What many are seeing is a very different world than four years ago. While hotels are running more smoothly today, costs are higher (much higher), and staffing and service levels are still not at the expected levels.

Here are seven recommendations to help hotels better partner with meeting planners and event managers to deliver exceptional attendee experiences:

1. Leverage outside and/or local vendors to reduce costs

Rising costs continue to frustrate everyone involved in planning a successful meeting. The need to cut costs has led to shortened meeting agendas, alternative destinations, and lower-cost food and beverage options. Some planners seek creative tech solutions and local catering partnerships to alleviate these rising costs. Venues can help customers by offering creative food and beverage choices, often enhanced with local flair from regional suppliers or flexible pricing from outside A/V providers.

2. Be flexible with dynamic staffing for desired service levels to ensure satisfaction

Although staffing levels and experience have improved, meeting planners still identify service as a top area of dissatisfaction. It is essential to the customer experience (whether as a meeting planner or a guest) that hoteliers ensure their property has the staff to deliver what guests expect and provide superior service at a fair price. The period of tolerance for post-pandemic staffing is over. As a result, hoteliers can expect more complaints than last year from clients due to hotel staffing inexperience and lack of adequate staff coverage.

3. Be responsive (and business savvy) with inbound sales leads

While nearly half of planners send RFPs to up to five venues (some send to as many as ten venues), many receive fewer responses. With today’s higher group demand, hotels can be more discerning by responding to RFPs that best address need periods and offer greater profitability. However, taking too long in the evaluation process can mean losing the business. Leveraging tools to evaluate inbound leads quickly by analyzing account booking preferences can simplify this process and boost anemic inbound win rates.

4. Don’t let sales structure affect productivity. Some clustered sales teams may be slower to respond than dedicated property-level staff.

If sales teams are clustered, competing priorities, the competitive environment, and shifting staffing levels at the property level may slow down the ability to respond in a timely fashion. Sales technology tools will help streamline processes and gain visibility into clustered sales performance. Hotels may also be dealing with mixed experience levels and skill sets. Automating account research and contact lead generation can make even the greenest salesperson efficient.

5. Get contracts out quickly; don’t let revenue teams slow down the process and lose the sale

It is all about timing when responding to group contracts. Once the deal is won, keeping an eye on the ball will be critical. Get the contract signed, sealed, and delivered as soon as possible. That said, an inexperienced salesperson may be too focused on getting a signed contract before all the T’s have been crossed. This can frustrate the meeting planner and expose inexperienced sales personnel. Make sure teams take the time to answer all questions before asking the customer to sign on the dotted line. But once those questions have been answered, get the contract out the door.

6. Make attendee well-being and DEI part of your event best practices

Planners agree that DEI and attendee well-being are the top trends influencing meetings. In some cases, hotly debated issues make it more challenging to choose a meeting destination where everyone feels accepted. These priorities may influence an event’s location and overall structure, likely impacting content and programming. Well-being options are hot and getting hotter. Those venues that can provide well-being options such as yoga, hydration stations, or healthy food options will set your hotel apart from the competition.

7. Don’t let new technology be a guest blocker

Ensure attendee-facing staff have a complete understanding of hotel and meeting technology. Partner with event organizers to understand their technology and how hotel staff can help optimize the experience. Suppose the hotel has invested in new technology—such as AI preferences, voice prompts, or text messaging. In that case, it would be critical that all personnel are trained to help attendees and answer questions. The success or failure of investments often hinges on whether new sales or operations teams are effectively trained to be efficient and helpful.

As we strive to elevate our meeting game this year, whether for business or pleasure, event planners and hoteliers must join forces to deliver exceptional service to attendees. It is time for a collective awakening to new and innovative approaches. By addressing the pain points of the planners we collaborate with, we pave the way for stronger brand loyalty and lasting partnerships.

Katrina Pruitt-Andrews
Katrina Pruitt-Andrews
Katrina Pruitt-Andrews is VP of Marketing, Knowland. Pruitt-Andrews enhances Knowland's journey with data-driven narratives. She uncovers meaningful insights to empower commercial sales teams in the hospitality industry.