Off-the-beaten-path: 5 destinations for an off-season wedding

Off-the-beaten-path: 5 destinations for an off-season wedding

When planning a wedding, there are a lot of variables and challenges that can determine the timing. What never seems to go out of style are spring and fall weddings. While peak wedding season months are May, June, September, and October, trying to capture the perfect month for the perfect wedding can come at a cost, and be prepared for competition.

Life doesn’t always happen on schedule. And maybe your wedding date doesn’t need to follow traditional norms…good for you, we love rebels!

And just because you’re planning an off-season wedding doesn’t mean you need to compromise on style. Who says you can’t have an outdoor wedding in December?! So, we’ve done a little digging and found some destination inspiration that would be ideal outside of the typical wedding season months, with reasons why you’ll want to consider these off-the-beaten-path locations.

5 off-season destinations for the perfect wedding

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Anchorage, AK

Best for: The Insta couple

A destination wedding not on a beach? You’ve really set yourself apart, and the payoff can last a lifetime. Here, your wedding photos’ backdrop can be turquoise glaciers, the dramatic Chugach Mountains, or, if you plan it right, the Northern Lights.


Main inspo: While half the year can be pretty cold, the nature-filled landscape is the payoff. Fully embracing the scenery and season equals a memorable celebration for those at the altar as well as the guests.

Air travel: There are more than 100 daily flights into Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, which is six miles from downtown, with direct service from domestic airports.

Public transportation: Guided tours, rail, chartered buses, public transit, and rental vehicles.

Stay longer: No need to leave space in your luggage for souvenirs; this trip is one for the memory book—with plenty to see and do. Take advantage of outdoor recreation that may not be available back home like alpine skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating, or even a dog sledding tour.

Connect with nature via a train tour to explore the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop—only accessible by rail—for a guided nature walk, ice climbing, and glacial river rafting. Walk the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail with eyes peeled for eagles, moose, and bears.


Cost efficiency: The average wedding in Alaska costs $12,083.


For more details:
Park City, Utah

Charleston, SC

Best for: The storied couple

Charleston might be your pick for where to start your story as a couple, and for good reason; this city is rich in history, cultural expression, and of course, Southern charm. The main characters here are live jazz, Carolina Gold rice, folk arts, and Rainbow Row.

For history buffs, there’s plenty to see and tour as there were more Revolutionary War battles fought in South Carolina than any other state.


Main inspo: Named a premier wedding venue by Martha Stewart Weddings and Brides magazine, the William Aiken House is sought after for its 1807 charm. Consider the 200-year-old magnolia tree your “something old.”

There’s also The Cedar Room, built in the late 1800s as a textile mill and operating as a cigar factory for 70 years. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

Or if it’s a post-wedding story you’re wanting guests to tell, The View is Charleston’s highest event space. It’s on the top floor of the Morrison Yard building with breathtaking, 180-degree water views of the Charleston Harbor.

Air travel: The Charleston International Airport is 11 miles from downtown Charleston and has daily nonstop flights to 37 U.S. and U.K. cities.

Public transportation: Bus service, free downtown shuttle, and walking.

Stay longer: Charleston really is for (food) lovers. There are enough homegrown restaurants celebrating Lowcountry cuisine to make a longer stay worthwhile. Oysters abound here, and the annual festivals and oyster roasts are a good way to immerse yourself in this local delicacy. The She Crab Soup at 82 Queen and the Cornmeal Fried Catfish at Husk are our other can’t-miss picks. And of course, plan ahead for a life-changing visit to Rodney Scott’s.

Cost efficiency: The average wedding in South Carolina costs $28,456.


For more details:
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Chicago (North Shore), IL

Best for: The entertaining couple

You may be thinking, “wow, they weren’t kidding when they said these destinations were off-the-beaten-path”. But you might know more about the Chicago North Shore than you think. If you’ve seen Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or The Breakfast Club, then you’ve seen the North Shore. Legendary filmmaker John Hughes filmed many of his movies here in his hometown.

Movies aside, it’s the perfect destination for the couple that loves to entertain and give their guests a variety of options for entertainment.


Main inspo: You get the best of both worlds in the North Shore – lakefront living without the crowds and all of the conveniences of the big city just a short drive away.

Enjoy the beauty of Lake Michigan at Lake Forest Beach, where the only thing photobombing your shot is the occasional sailboat. Or sneak in a selfie in front of the iconic house from the John Hughes Christmas classic Home Alone, filmed in the suburb of Winettka.

Air travel: The North Shore is easily accessed by three airports, including O’Hare, which is one of the world’s largest airports.

Public transportation: Planes, trains and automobiles of course!

Stay longer: Pack a picnic and take in an outdoor concert at Ravinia Festival. Ask any local, and they’ll tell you that the best seats in the house are on the lawn. Whether you’re in the mood for B.B. King, Dolly Parton, 50 Cent or The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Ravinia has hosted them all. Nestled in the woods of Highland Park, Ravinia remains the oldest music festival in North America since it opened in 1904.

Cost efficiency: The average wedding in Illinois costs $36,844.


For more details:
Palisades Tahoe, California

Sausalito, CA

Best for: The literal couple

The romantic fishing village calls to water lovers, but there’s an even slower pace to be enjoyed here, and it centers on sipping.

Sidewalk cappuccinos. Vodka tasting. A wine train (more on this one below).


Main inspo: Say your “I Do’s” and literally tie the knot at Butterflute’s Wedding Chapel, a repurposed boat lettering shop surrounded by gardens (and very reasonable venue rates). This maritime wedding venue has the rarity of being located inside of a working boat yard.

Air travel: Fly into San Francisco and either drive to the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge or take the ferry. They take about the same amount of time, depending on bridge traffic.

Public transportation: Ferries and buses.

Stay longer: Take in an area boat tour, waterfront treasure hunts, or tour some of Sausalito’s floating homes. Oh, and San Francisco is a stone’s throw away for additional site seeing.

But back to that wine train, which began gourmet dining service in 1989 and travels on a rail built in 1864. As you wait to board for vineyard tastings, lock your souls together at the popular Love Lock Pedestrian Bridge.


Cost efficiency: The average wedding in California costs $32,369.


For more details:
Quebec, Canada

Scottsdale, AZ

Best for: The eloping couple

Couples wanting a special ceremony for only the two of them can wed at the foot of a mountain and then set off on a duo-only adventure. Scottsdale activities include mountain biking, rock climbing, saltwater river floating, hot air balloon rides, and canyoneering. But since you’ve eloped, no one will know if you skip it all and just enjoy the Sonoran Desert scenery together.

Main inspo: Hotels in this central Arizona city know how to cater to eloping couples. Bask in the panoramic sunset views from Hotel Valley Ho’s rooftop. The Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows creates an intimate ceremony on its 23 garden acres despite being only a few miles from the Old Town Scottsdale and Paradise Valley entertainment districts. Also in this coveted area is the luxurious The Scott Resort & Spa.

Air travel: Scottsdale Airport is the country’s busiest single-runway airport, but there’s also Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport about 20 minutes away.

Public transportation: Individual neighborhoods’ attractions are walkable, but a car is needed between these pockets of town. And then there are the party bike, electric bike, street-legal golf carts, and Segway tour options.

Stay longer: This is a city for pampering, making it a perfect trip for a couple doing things their own way. Spas, golf courses, high-end shopping, and art galleries will fill the itinerary, then the starry-eyed couple can park at one of many spots for optimal stargazing (including Adero Scottsdale Resort, which is in a Dark Sky Community).

Cost efficiency: The average wedding in Arizona costs $22,845.


For more details:

Winter & summer destination weddings have just as much to love

Planning an off-season wedding certainly has its advantages, not least of which is maximizing an underappreciated town others haven’t yet recognized as a hotspot. These under-the-radar destination cities burst with options for a unique wedding followed by a lengthy relaxation stay.

Ready to find and book the perfect hotel? Get started today, sign up for a free GroupSync account here.

RFP Responses – Part 2: How turning down an RFP can still bring in business

RFP Responses – Part 2: How turning down an RFP can still bring in business

This is a continuation of our 2-part article series on hotel RFP responses. In this article, we focus on how responding to an RFP can build a relationship with the planner for future business. For part 1, where we cover why hotels should reply to every RFP, click here.

Part 2: How turning down an RFP can still bring in business

Don’t leave meeting planners hanging

In 2020, Groups360 conducted an extensive double-blind research study on the needs and preferences of event professionals. One of the most common frustrations among meeting planners was the lack of timely responses to their RFPs.

Every RFP represents a planner. Here’s another way of looking at the industry’s low response rates: For every 100 planners who ask a hotel for information, 55 of them are left hanging.

If a planner has to chase you down—and not many of them will—you’re hurting your reputation and reducing the chance this planner will source your hotel in the future.

Coming in a close second among planner frustrations was the lack of information in the responses they did receive. Among the hotels that submit a proposal, they often don’t take the time to address the planner’s specific questions. Without enough information, the planner can’t make an informed decision.

It’s just as frustrating for hoteliers to lob emails back and forth with customers over every detail. You can streamline your communications by paying attention to attachments and answering the RFP with meaningful details at the outset.

A bit more investment on the front end will save you time in the long run and increase your chances that the planner will award the bid to your hotel.

Respond to every lead. Take a moment to properly evaluate planners’ requests and provide the requested information. You will greatly increase your hotel’s visibility on a planner’s list of possible hotels.

The real difference between ‘no’ and ‘maybe’

‘No’ is an acceptable response

If you’re interested in a planner’s piece of business, propose. If you’re not interested, decline. It’s common courtesy to thank a planner for the opportunity, even if you can’t accommodate their group.

No is a helpful response. Planners are waiting to hear from you. Turning down the business helps them move on to those who can. They’ll cross you off their list for now, but not forever, because you were considerate enough to reply to their RFP.

No is also the easiest response. Make sure your no is an honest no, and not simply the easy way out of a more thorough proposal.

‘Maybe’ can start a sales dialog

If you can’t accommodate a group over the planner’s specific dates, suggest an alternative timeframe. Remember that this person has received very few responses from other hotels. They may be willing to make adjustments to have your hotel host their program.

You may have to give a hard no to a planner who needs 10,000 square feet of meeting space but your hotel only has 5,000. But if you have 8,000 square feet, you have room to negotiate.

A fruitful alternative to no is maybe.

Same goes for a planner who may be asking for more space than is reasonable given the room block. You might be inclined to turn it down. But she may be especially interested in your hotel and open to adjustments to make it work for the both of you.

Whenever possible, let your no be maybe—a starting point for negotiations on space, rates and other revenue-generating pieces of the program.

Be strategic in your RFP responses

You may be staying busy and filling the books, but are you booking the right business?

Sales managers have the responsibility to ensure that the most advantageous pieces of business are getting prioritized. The best sales leaders take a strategic and analytical approach to evaluating leads and booking group business, and they train their people to do the same.

Here’s an extreme example of this principle. Groups360 worked with a client who had a program that would have bought out an entire hotel, not to mention all the revenue from food and beverage, equipment and other ancillary revenue.

While negotiations were underway, however, the hotel sold two small room blocks to other customers over the same set of dates. What’s worse—they wouldn’t correct this astronomically expensive mistake.

If you’re responding to every lead you receive—even those across the same set of dates—you have the opportunity to choose among those you win which one most benefits your hotel.

Revenue management is critical to the success of the hotel

Revenue management brings the much-needed analytical eye to competing pieces of business. Is one more valuable than the other? Do the arrival and departure dates allow for additional business on the front end and back end?

Let’s say you have two groups looking to book over the same set of dates. One is a corporation for 500 room nights, while the other is an association for 1,000. At first glance, 1,000 room nights looks like the better choice.

Meanwhile, the value of the corporate program is $1 million, while the association is $750,000. Not to mention that a property that large could easily fit two of those kinds of corporate groups at the same time. You still bid on both, but when it comes time to choose, there’s a clear winner.

The time it takes to have a business review meeting and evaluate these kinds of outcomes is more than worth it in the long run.

Be a team player

Salespeople with myopic goals present a challenge to this strategic approach. Some would rather book their particular pieces of business than collaborate on what’s best for the hotel.

Business review meetings can prevent this tendency because, frankly, revenue management doesn’t care about anyone’s feelings. It’s about the bottom line.

A successful sales team does what it takes to win the best business for the hotel.

When sales colleagues each have rival groups, the strategic approach is to use the interest of one to push the decision of the other. In other words, you have Planner A with a more valuable program than Planner B, but Planner A hasn’t signed the contract yet.

You call them up and let them know you have another group interested over the same set of dates, which may accelerate negotiations.

This situation also presents an opportunity to increase the value of Planner B’s lesser piece of business. You let them know there’s another group that’s outbid them, but you could probably escalate their program by increasing the room rate another $20.

Revenue management might give the thumbs-up as long as they’re ready to sign the contract.


Get creative with back-to-back bookings

You don’t necessarily have to choose between two good pieces of business if you’re strategic about the flow of your groups.

You can keep your hotel filled on an ongoing basis by playing a bit of Tetris with the room blocks.

The key to accommodating the most groups is to arrange their dates in such a way that you can run them back to back. As you’re bidding on groups with competing sets of dates, you can call the planner and offer them an adjusted set of dates—and make it worth their while by cutting them a deal.

Find ways to fill your room blocks. Adjust arrival and departure times, room blocks and meeting space to your advantage. This is a strategic way to capitalize on as many groups as possible.

When we used this approach at Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee, we sold somewhere between 750,000 to 1 million rooms over the course of two years—the most back-to-back rooms ever recorded in the industry by an individual hotel.

This level of success is all a matter of getting the puzzle pieces to fit. But you can’t play Tetris if you’re not looking at all the pieces—which means evaluating and responding to every lead you receive.

Small meetings fill space

The vast majority of RFPs are meeting planners organizing small meetings, usually 20-25 people. Unfortunately, these leads are just as likely to get delayed or ignored as any other.

One reason this happens is because many hotels deploy their sales teams based on the size of the groups. More seasoned and successful sales executives take on the larger, more complex group bookings.

RFPs for smaller meetings—the highest volume of leads across the industry—are assigned to the greenest salespeople. Conference managers just beginning their careers have less experience and need more guidance on how best to respond. This creates extended delays in responses and hinders converting these essential pieces of business.

Larger, more complex events are typically booked months, even years, into the future. In the meantime, the more short-term business that simpler meetings provide can help fill your calendar.

These simpler programs may not be the most lucrative for your hotel, but such meetings still fill space, often when you need it the most.


It’s time for a change

As hoteliers ourselves, we know the kinds of pressures sales leaders and their teams face on a daily basis. There are better ways to do business.

The first step of the sales process is to acknowledge the planners inquiring about your property. Send a response to every RFP you get.

When you properly evaluate and respond to leads, you increase your chances for more and better business. At the same time, the courtesy you show meeting and event planners demonstrates you’re a hotel they’ll want to source again when the next program comes around.


We’re striving for the solution

After decades in hospitality, we’re now part of an industrywide solution to the antiquated process of searching, sourcing and booking groups.

We designed GroupSync, the leading marketplace for groups, to provide planners with a better sourcing experience and hoteliers with higher quality leads. During a planner’s search, the platform’s algorithms display only the hotels that can physically accommodate the planner’s room block and largest required meeting space.

There are also no paid placements, which often result in indiscriminate leads to hotels that aren’t the best fit.

When a hotel receives a lead from GroupSync, they’re not one of 40 hotels. They’re usually one of seven to 10, which can increase your chances of winning—provided, of course, that you respond.

And GroupSync makes it quicker to populate a response with basic availability or with more detailed responses to any attachments the planner included in their RFP.

Expand your hotel’s reach on the fastest growing hotel marketplace for groups. Learn more about our hotelier solutions here.


This completes our article series. For more info on GroupSync, and how to automate your hotel’s group booking process, connect with us here.

Click the following to read Part 1 of our article series, ‘Why hotels should reply to every RFP’

RFP Responses – Part 1: Why hotels should reply to every RFP

RFP Responses – Part 1: Why hotels should reply to every RFP

If you’re a hotelier, you know how important group business is to the bottom line. You need to fill your rooms and space regularly and profitably with the best pieces of business.

The best way to achieve these goals is to evaluate and respond to the constant influx of digital RFPs—every single one of them.

But the hotel industry has a serious, longstanding problem: RFP response rates are dismal.

Based on recent Groups360 industry analysis, the average response rate is approximately 45%.

Out of every 100 RFPs planners send to hotels, 55 are completely ignored.

Nonresponsiveness is not just detrimental to hotel revenue but also to brand reputation among meeting and event planners seeking to book rooms and space. These days, planners have to source 10-20% more properties to secure enough responses to choose from.

As longtime hotel executives ourselves, we believe every lead is a good lead. Every RFP is an opportunity to build relationships and generate revenue. This is an essential mindset executives need to instill in their sales teams.

By responding to all of the RFPs you receive, you significantly increase your hotel’s revenue opportunities, you can be more strategic about securing the best pieces of business, and you maintain goodwill with the meeting and event planners waiting on you to answer in a timely manner.

Leads are money on the table

Imagine someone introducing you to a planner, who tells you they’re interested in learning about your property and possibly booking a group. Would you ignore them? Waive them out of your office?

Of course not. So why do leads get ignored? A lead is a planner who hand-selected your property and asked you to bid on their program.

Most salespeople would assert that they do, in fact, respond to every lead their hotel receives through the various channels—hotel lead catchers or GSOs, e-RFP platforms, lead distribution systems like MeetingBroker and direct planner communication.

But the response rates and feedback from planners say otherwise.

Three common reasons hotels don’t respond, and why you should

1. We’re too busy

Say there’s a bag of money sitting on the side of the road. Would you be too busy to stop and pick it up?

That pile of leads is a potential bag of cash. If you’re looking for business, the easiest sales call to make is to answer the phone that’s already ringing. You may find it hard to make time to respond to leads, but you’re guaranteed to lose prospects if you don’t.

Some leads require more effort than others. In our careers, we’ve worked with salespeople who would let a complex lead age for weeks—or worse, they simply turned it down because it was the fastest response.

Remember, today’s lead is tomorrow’s business.

If you’re too busy right now, you won’t be busy enough later. By responding to RFPs on an ongoing basis, you keep your pipeline flowing.

So, carve out the time. Or pass the leads to someone in your organization who can. Your director of sales or general manager, who are deeply invested in the hotel’s success, can (and should) help create or adjust processes to make them smoother and more efficient for the sales team.

Salespeople have a responsibility to answer leads. Sales managers have a responsibility to ensure leads aren’t falling through the cracks.

As directors of sales, we pulled reports to evaluate the status of leads coming into the hotel. We urged our salespeople to follow up promptly, and we investigated when a good piece of business was inadvertently turned down. As corporate sales executives, we urged our hotels’ DOSs to do the same thing.

This is not about babysitting your team—it’s holding them accountable to the KPIs associated with getting responses out the door.

Responding to RFPs for larger meetings requires more effort, but the amount of work you put into a bid is usually commensurate with the reward when you win it.

2. We rarely win the business anyway

An even more dismal percentage than response rates are conversion rates. On average, hotels have a 3-7% chance of being awarded a meeting planner’s program.

We get it. Why put in so much effort for so little reward? But here’s the thing.

You can’t win business you don’t bid on.

If you don’t respond to a lead, your chance of conversion is 0%. You’ll lose money to a hungrier hotel.

Among the hotels that do respond to leads, the vast majority are turning down the business due to lack of capacity or availability. If you can accommodate a group, then by offering a sufficient response you increase your chance of winning the business exponentially.

Respond to everything—and ideally within a week or less. You don’t know if you’re one of 30 hotels in the running or one of 10. Given how few hotels answer RFPs—and how many of those responses turn down the business—you increase the probability of making the sale by being one of those who do.

Then there are the times you consistently bid and still don’t win. Let’s say the same planner sends you an RFP every year. You respond, but you’re never chosen, so when the next inquiry comes around, you simply set it aside.

The better approach, however, is to reach out to the customer for feedback—why are you requesting bids when you consistently choose another hotel? It becomes an opportunity to invite them to visit so they can experience your property’s events directly.

3. We’re already hitting our numbers

In our experience, there are salespeople who will bid on any piece of business because it populates the calendar and helps them meet their sales goals.

Sales leaders might be tempted to shrug their shoulders about whether their team is clearing the RFP queue or responding promptly. What does it matter? We’re hitting our numbers. But this is a short-sighted perspective.

If you were struggling to make your numbers at the end of the month, you’d be responding to every lead. The best approach to ongoing success is to view every lead as if you’re struggling to make your quota.

Consider also the optics on the buying side. Perception is reality. If you don’t respond, a planner may assume you don’t value the opportunity. You not only lose out on the current opportunity to bid but quite possibly on any future opportunity as well.

If you answer every RFP, planners are more likely to source you again later on because you’re one of the precious few who paid attention to their request.


Automate your group booking process

Low staffing levels have been another longstanding problem in the hotel industry, exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic. This is especially challenging for smaller hotels—the same ones being inundated with the bulk of planners’ RFPs.

If you’re a general manager of a limited-service hotel, you may be spinning a lot of plates. You’re not only fielding sales calls but also checking in guests, maybe even stripping beds.

The best solution for smaller hotels is to automate group bookings.

Online group booking platforms like GroupSync™, are one of the many ways technology is filling in the gaps in hotel operations.

The process of booking small meetings is much like order taking, with a lot of wasteful back-and-forth communication over details. The more hotels move their group bookings online, the more they will free up their sales departments to get their arms around the volume of RFPs and maximize the effectiveness of their sales processes.

Hotels of all sizes—from global hotel brands to independently owned properties—are benefiting from this revolutionary approach to group bookings. Online group booking allows hoteliers to pick and choose what and how much to offer to planners for immediate purchase.

And with GroupSync, planners are finally able to purchase rooms and space online the way travelers have been booking hotel rooms on OTAs for years.

This completes part 1 of our 2-part article series. For more info on GroupSync, and how to automate your hotel’s group booking process, connect with us here.

Click here to read part 2 of our article series, ‘How turning down an RFP can still bring in business’.


Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Choice Hotels to offer GroupSync Instant Booking

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Choice Hotels to offer GroupSync Instant Booking

Groups360 announces new partnerships with Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Choice Hotels—adding thousands of additional properties available for instant group booking.

More exciting news to share! Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Choice Hotels International are the latest brands to offer group travel organizers and meeting planners the speed and ease of GroupSync Instant Booking.

GroupSync™ continues to simplify group hotel sourcing and booking—enabling a faster way to search and shop for group hotels, compare properties, and book best-fit hotels at the best group rates.

Once launched, this partnership will add thousands of hotels around the world to GroupSync’s global Instant Booking inventory.

GroupSync’s roster of brands offering Instant Booking continues its rapid pace. Nearly 9,000 of our inventory of 200,000 hotels offer Instant Booking—with a total of 20,000 planned in the months ahead. Wyndham and Choice are in excellent company, joining Marriott International, Accor, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Worldwide, and Omni Hotels & Resorts as brands already offering Instant Booking on GroupSync.

What group organizers and planners can expect

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

Scheduled to launch in 2023, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts will offer Instant Booking of group guest rooms and meeting space in the GroupSync Marketplace. Currently, planners can use GroupSync to create, submit and award RFPs for larger groups and events. With the launch later this year, planners will also have access to real-time room availability for Smart RFP bookings.

“Wyndham is a major player in the hospitality industry with offerings that span every segment of the industry,” said Tim Flors, chief customer officer, Groups360. “Travel planners increasingly expect their hotel purchase experience to be seamless, instantaneous, and online. Wyndham’s deployment on GroupSync Marketplace does just that, all while saving hotels time and helping them better serve their guests.”


Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Choice Hotels

Instant Booking for group guestrooms across Choice Hotels’ global portfolio will be available on GroupSync later this year.  With the launch of Instant Booking, planners will also have access to real-time room availability for Smart RFP bookings.

“We are thrilled to have Choice Hotels join the GroupSync Marketplace,” said Kemp Gallineau, CEO, Groups360. “Their involvement is a testament to our shared commitment to reducing transaction friction in group travel planning. This technology roll-out will help franchisors like Choice continue their history of innovation, enhance their customer relationships, and deliver an improved event planning experience at Choice properties. With the addition of Choice, we anticipate that over 20,000 leading hotel properties will be equipped to offer GroupSync’s online instant group booking functionality in the months ahead.”

Park City, Utah

What this means for group organizers and planners

Over 75% of group travel planners have less lead time these days, which means booking speed is becoming more critical than ever to those sourcing group hotels. And because Instant Booking is the fastest way to book smaller group stays and meetings, organizers of groups are starting to take notice.

It’s not hard to imagine the value and convenience of searching, comparing and booking group rooms and meeting space online without the need of an RFP. This capability is a true game-changer for those booking smaller groups and meetings—an industry first at this scale.

So if you’re booking 25 rooms or fewer, you’ll have thousands of additional hotels to choose from that provide Instant Booking online – no RFP required.

In addition to real-time, online booking for group rooms, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts will also offer Instant Booking for meeting space in select locations, allowing planners to add audio/visual equipment and catering as part of their single online transaction.

This launch will also benefit event planners with larger meetings or events that still require an RFP. GroupSync’s direct integration with both brands’ systems provides real-time inventory to those using GroupSync’s Smart RFP, allowing planners to short-list hotels (based on availability) faster.

GroupSync is the first online hotel booking platform to offer real-time visibility and booking options for group hotel rooms and meeting spaces at scale, allowing group travel organizers and planners to discover and book the best hotels with real-time visibility.

New to GroupSync? Click here to set up a free account.

Better Hotel Marketing Can Win You More Group Business – Part 2

Better Hotel Marketing Can Win You More Group Business – Part 2

This is a continuation of our 2-part article series on hotel marketing for groups. In this article, we focus on best practices for promoting need dates and incentives for meetings and event booking. For part 1, where we cover creating group-focused content, click here.

Part 2: Promoting Need Dates & Incentives

Attract planners through need dates and incentives

Long gone are the days when hotels would prepare and send an email to a customer with their need dates and incentives. The outreach only worked if you happened to get lucky that it arrived when the customer was actively searching for a hotel over that set of dates.

The lacking element for hoteliers in the approach above…a high quantity of those with booking intent.

Rather than relying on the hope, hoteliers are in continual need of a designated online marketplace that focuses only on group, meeting and event booking. A marketplace where need dates can quickly and easily be promoted to those with high booking intent in your market.

GroupSync can help your hotel capitalize on promotions and monetize low-occupancy periods. These special offers are targeted, as GroupSync displays your available incentives to planners sourcing in your market and with matching event dates.


Best part is, hoteliers that market on GroupSync see more booking activity–

up to 30-40% more.

Best practices: need dates

A need date is a window of up to five days in which your hotel has a down pattern or inventory anomaly. By entering a need date, you simply agree to offer 10% off the GroupSync Market Estimate over the selected date range.

    • Identify need dates in both the current and subsequent calendar years. These are often your slow or shoulder seasons, group cancellations or unexpected low demand.
    • Optimize the visibility of need dates by extending the Publish dates, as planners are less likely to be sourcing at certain times of the year, such as holidays and late summer.
    • Extend, modify or cancel an offer easily and immediately based on your in-house needs.

You may not want to use need dates for weekends, as the entire market may have a decline in occupancy. For slow weekends, create a promotion instead and list available dates in GroupSync. Each hotel can enter up to 20 concurrent need dates.


Best practices: incentives

GroupSync can help you win new business without a significant investment of time. You make updates to your incentives and promotions and monitor your progress in as little as an hour a month.

    • Make promotions available across a broad spectrum of your desired booking window, whether that’s in the year, for the year or as far out as you desire, if your hotel has that demand.
    • Increase the effectiveness of your promotions by extending the Publish and Event dates.
    • Let a planner choose their incentive: “Pick Your Perks” is a great way to add flexibility. Perks may include room rate or A/V discounts, bonus points, free parking, free coffee stations or complimentary room nights.
    • Don’t list dates when your hotel will be busy so that your promotion won’t be visible during those periods. Just enter the available dates as separate event dates when you create your promotion.

Each hotel can post up to five concurrent promotions. Understand your hotel’s booking window to be sure to get the most out of your promotions. No other platform makes it as easy and effective to display your incentives and need dates to the right buyers at the right time.

Market to the most relevant groups and programs

GroupSync doesn’t offer paid placements for a reason. While paid placements can position hotels favorably in search results, we believe an unbiased booking platform offers a better experience for all. GroupSync has been designed to pair meeting and event professionals with best-fit hotels that can accommodate their group. The algorithms weed out properties without enough rooms, as well as hotels that don’t have the needed venue square footage. As a hotelier, you receive fewer irrelevant proposal requests which can save you a lot of time.

Additionally, you’re not offering incentives and need dates that might be irrelevant to the planner searching and sourcing in a certain market for certain event dates. You’re receiving leads for dates that you need, and planners have the opportunity to save money. Best part is, hoteliers that market on GroupSync see more booking activity—up to 30-40% more.


Gain an advantage with GroupSync

Just like a gym membership, you get results when you put in the time. Make the most of your GroupSync presence by using all the available features to strengthen your online presence and attract the right group business to your property.

There are more than 200,000 properties in GroupSync Marketplace. Your hotel may be a great match for a group travel  organizer or meeting planner, but many other hotels could be too.

Question is, will yours stand out enough to be considered?


This completes our article series. For more info on GroupSync, options to enhance your property’s profile, or to see what your current GroupSync profile looks like, connect with us here.

Click the following to read part 1 of our article series, ‘[Group] Content is King.’


Better Hotel Marketing Can Win You More Group Business – Part 1

Better Hotel Marketing Can Win You More Group Business – Part 1

Part 1: [Group] Content is King

Let’s say you go to your favorite online store to buy something new. You expect to have several options to choose from and you’re trying to find the best option that fits exactly what you need, at the best price.

Now imagine you’re presented with several product options…some have plenty of details, images and specifications to make an informed purchase decision, while others have limited details that would require you to spend more time researching to verify if it’s what you want.

Since you have several options to choose from, you don’t want to spend a lot of time researching or validating purchase options—which one do you consider?

The same concept applies to your hotel’s online presence for groups. How thorough are your property details compared to other hotels in your market? Are you presenting yourself in the best light for groups and planners to make a well-informed decision, fast?

And, is your hotel showcasing its details in the right places? It’s all about where you can attract group audiences that have a high level of intent, otherwise you could be wasting time, effort and money.

Digital marketing can be a difficult and expensive investment for hoteliers endeavoring to stand out from their comp set. Ideally, you’ll want a way to grab meeting planners’ attention as they’re searching and sourcing hotels for their next program.

Online ads and paid placements in e-RFP systems are often a crapshoot, often resulting in an influx of RFPs for planners whose programs aren’t a good fit for your hotel—wasting your and the planner’s time in the process.

So what does a hotelier do?

In part 1 of this article series, we dive into hotel marketing for those targeting the revenue-generating group and event business. The group travel industry is evolving, and thankfully, so has the way we market to and book groups, meetings and events. Consider these tips and best practices to help shine a brighter spotlight on your hotel for group audiences.

Marketing to groups is evolving, here’s how to stay ahead

A shameless but sincere plug

If you haven’t heard, GroupSync is quickly becoming the leading online hotel marketplace for searching, sourcing and booking hotels for groups. It’s designed to help planners find and book the best fit hotels for their programs, while reducing sourcing complexity for both the planner and hotelier.

To help hoteliers get the most out of GroupSync, there’s unique options that allow hotels to go beyond the basic and customize their GroupSync presence by offering need dates and incentives to planners as they search hotels. Hoteliers can also control their profile page by adding extensive, group-centric property details—such as taxes and fees, buyout opportunities, facility guides, restaurant menus and more.

While we may be biased in how great GroupSync is, the fact remains that it’s a game-changer for the way groups, meetings and events (large and small) are booked. And we’re just as surprised as you to see it take this long to become a reality—a solution to a decades-long industry problem.

The question is, how do hoteliers evolve as well, and what steps can they take to not only make more sales, but do so more efficiently?

High-quality, group-centric content

The adage “content is king” is just as relevant to hotel marketing as it is to other companies’ efforts to promote their products and services. You’re selling yourself in a hotel marketplace chock full of competition.

So how do you stand out? The key to effective online hotel marketing is being where your audience spends their time, while putting your best foot forward with high-quality content that presents your hotel as an ideal option for groups.

Most hotels provide their basic information through Northstar Travel Group or their brand’s property management system. These databases then serve up the content to leisure travel websites and e-RFP distribution systems. The same content is viewed by many different types of buyers, from meeting and event planners to individuals going on vacation. The details being marketed may not resonate with a meeting planner if they’re family leisure-centric and vice versa. Details and relevancy matters—hoteliers will want to present the appropriate content to the appropriate customer, at the ideal time.

If hoteliers have the opportunity to take control and customize their content, they can provide curated details to their intended planner and group audiences. Whether your content is under your direct control or managed through your hotel brand’s property management systems, creating a strong, relevant online presence is key to maximizing your visibility and attractiveness online.

Groups and planners need relevant hotel details

By providing thorough information about your hotel, you’ll not only increase your opportunities to bid on business, but you’ll also provide a better booking experience, for you and your customer.

If your hotel details are informative and readily available to a planner, you save time by reducing the amount of back-and-forth communication. A planner can make an informed decision, and you have more time to attend to the business of the day.

Tell an accurate and better group story

As an example, GroupSync receives its hotel content from Northstar Travel Group. While the information provided is enough to help planners as they source properties, many basic hotel profiles may not contain the deeper, specific details or documentation that helps planners make decisions easily and quickly. While savvy hoteliers see GroupSync marketplace as an opportunity to make a great impression and attract more business.

Here are ways to strengthen your profile with differentiating details that influence the decision-making process.

    • Make sure your property information is accurate and up to date, whether directly on GroupSync or through your brand’s property management system. GroupSync is integrated with these systems and updates hotel profiles on the platform daily.
    • Create a description of your hotel that’s directed toward planners and groups.
    • Upload materials into GroupSync that demonstrate creative ways a planner can host events at your facilities.
    • Include sales brochures, facility guides, floor plans, restaurant and banquet menus and other materials that illustrate what makes your property unique.
    • Outline your various taxes and fees so a planner has a full picture of possible costs.
    • Display a complete list of your meeting spaces along with their square footage.

Use any sort of documentation to spark a planner’s interest in your property as long as it doesn’t include a list of competing hotels, such as a Convention & Visitors Bureau guide. Save promotional or time-sensitive information for your hotel profile’s Offers section in GroupSync. 

Add and manage group-centric property images

GroupSync offers the option to add an unlimited number of pictures to enhance your profile, which you can reorder by priority. These options vary according to your hotel brand’s property management system.

Consider what a meeting planner needs and wants. Hint: It’s probably not the same sleeping room shot from 10 angles nor a photo of kids splashing in the hotel pool.

    • Upload photos that capture attention and illustrate how your hotel benefits groups, such as an exterior shot, the hotel lobby, a sample sleeping room, indoor and outdoor meeting space, your fitness area, the business services center and a selection of successful group events.
    • If possible, arrange images in the order you would want the planner to see your hotel.
    • Tag each image according to content—buyers can filter properties based on these identifiers, such as #meetingspace, #outdoorfunction, #recreationarea, #groupactivity, #teambuilding and other group-specific tags.

Highlight your hotel’s upgrades and renovations

If your hotel has been around for a while, planners want to know the last time you refreshed the property. Within GroupSync, you can note recent or upcoming renovations and upgrades.

    • List the dates your hotel last renovated sleeping rooms or meeting space.
    • Note any planned renovations to entice buyers sourcing for future dates.

Describe upgrades the way you would during a site visit to demonstrate the benefit for a group, such as “You can buy out the newly added bocce court for team building or after-hours events.”

More business for less

Hotels of all sizes are having to do more with less. But smaller hotels are especially burdened by the vast quantity of RFPs for simpler meetings. The more information you make available the less back-and-forth between you and the planner.

You can’t tell a customer often enough how great your hotel is and what you have to offer.

An enhanced GroupSync hotel profile not only provides upfront information for planners searching and sourcing properties but also allows you to include it again in your response to their RFPs.

This completes part 1 of our 2-part article series. For more info on GroupSync, options to enhance your property’s profile, or to see what your current GroupSync profile looks like, connect with us here.

Click the following to read part 2 of our article series, ‘Promoting Need Dates and Incentives’.