How can a small hotel broaden its meetings sales efforts beyond a regional scope and customize its proposals when it doesn’t have a national sales force or proprietary sales technology like the global hospitality brands? One way is by joining meeting specific sales and marketing organizations that have a strong online presence and an interconnected network of regional sales offices to share data about individual planner’s specific needs.
With a team of over 20 sales staff in the U.S. from coast to coast, Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI) acts as a national sales organization for independent hotels and some smaller hospitality brands like Loews Hotels and Omni Hotels.
According to Paul Howe, director of sales at ALHI, he says the hospitality industry has traditionally been a little behind the sales technology curve compared to other industries, but in the last couple of years he’s seen a shift taking place driven by Millennial’s digital communication preferences. He says hotels are getting a lot better at integrating digital tech, especially in terms of social media and sales engagement technology.
“People are gravitating to where the new technology is happening,” says Howe. “They feel that, if the hotel is sending us a proposal using interactive technology, they’re going to assume the hotel is also integrating new technology into the overall guest experience, and that the hotel is just basically with the times. The most important thing is you have to think about the end user. With Millennials, this is how their minds work and the way they process data, and in the end, this is why they’re attracted to certain hotels.”
Howe says there’s been a dramatic rise recently in more interactive e-proposals with 360-degree videos and mapping technology, and more links to online proposals with dramatic high-resolution photos and videos. The user experience is the differentiator because it grabs people’s attention, and maintains that attention longer, in a more visceral way.
“You click on the meeting space, and because it has 360-degree views, you feel like you’re actually moving through it,” he explains. “The interactive technology also doesn’t require a lot of data so you can use these platforms on your smartphone too, which is really important today.”
Howe adds that he’s worked with meeting planners who have also used Google Glass and Apple’s FaceTime while walking through various venues to show the meeting space to clients in real time. He says, “People want to touch and feel the meeting space virtually.”
So how does all of this developing technology and shift toward digital engagement help hotels convert more group business? It’s about remaining relevant. It’s about communicating to potential meeting planner clients that the hotel experience will speak the same language as more and more attendees do. Howe asserts, “People are sourcing more hotels because technology is allowing them to source more hotels, so hotels that aren’t integrating technology are losing out.”
Greg Oates is an Editor at Skift.com exploring the convergence of tourism, urban & economic development.