Why hotels should embrace instant group booking

Why hotels should embrace instant group booking

Instant Booking—the ability to book hotels for groups, meetings, and events directly online—continues to grow at a rapid pace. Through technology like GroupSync, hoteliers can finally give planners what they crave, more transparency, more flexibility, and a faster booking process. Our VP of Reporting, Data and Analytics, Kristi White, makes a strong case for why hoteliers need to embrace Instant Booking, its impact on sales teams, and how hoteliers should take advantage of the business opportunity.

The title might seem like a science fiction dream. However, it’s not, it’s today’s reality. The real question is whether your hotel has embraced the reality. If you’re still sitting on the fence, perhaps a few fun facts will push you off the fence and set you up for solid footing here in reality.

Before we get to the facts, let’s look at some of the myths associated with instant group bookings:

Myth: Only my sellers can offer the customer the best rate.
Fact: Technology can generate a better rate than sellers in most instances. It can react faster and since it has none of the emotional components so often involved with selling, it can also possibly generate higher rates.

Myth: Technology is trying to replace sellers.
Fact: Technology is trying to make your sellers more efficient. By allowing smaller groups to book instantly, sellers are free to hunt for larger business.

Myth: Customers want a personal touch.
Fact: Customers want what they want when they want it. For certain types of groups, that means they want to book while it’s top of mind, not when your sellers are free to get back to them.

Myth: We maximize and stack our business to get the right mix. If customers book online, it will destroy our efforts.
Fact: Technology allows you to control rates and availability. If you have done that part right, instant online bookings will mesh with your efforts seamlessly.

In 2023, 43% of all hotel guest rooms were booked online

All of these add up to one thing. Technology is making it easier for hoteliers to drive more business and ultimately more profits.

Just the Facts

Let’s look at some of the facts around instant group booking to see if that will make it more intriguing. There are three main areas we’re going to focus on in this first part:

    • Booking Window
    • Booking Day
    • Time of Booking

Booking Window

62.5% of instant bookings occur 16-120 days from arrival. For most group heavy hotels, this is typically outside of normal group booking windows. Additionally, 81.7% of these bookings have less than 40 total room nights. The average rooms on peak for instant bookings is 14.


Jackson Hole, Wyoming
These bookings are smaller and book inside traditional booking windows. The question to ask: Should your sellers even be investing their time in small bookings that are perfect for a self-service model?

Instant bookings are ripe for your revenue management process to yield and manage in much the same way you already effectively manage transient bookings. This frees up your sellers to continue the hunt for larger business and focus your service team on delivering a successful stay.

Booking Day

Consumers are generating bookings Monday – Friday (95.3%). Tuesdays are the highest booking day of the week. Some might make the argument that this is more reason why sellers should be involved in these bookings. People are booking on weekdays which means they want assistance. However, this view changes when we shift to look at the next focus point.

Booking Time

Of all the bookings that occur Monday – Friday, 53.2% of them occur outside of business hours (before 8:00 AM and after 6:00PM). Not hours when a sales office traditionally has someone on staff. And chances are even if there was one, they wouldn’t be able to book because they would need to get a rate. Technology facilitated what the customer wanted when the customer wanted it.

On the opposite side of that, 46.8% of these consumers booked when sellers were available. They didn’t call a hotel, they conducted their research and then selected the book now option. Because what they wanted was available instantly, the rate was within their budget, and availability was there.

Fact: Customers want to book what they want when they want it.

They put money into your hotel’s coffers without the need to interact with anyone. This is passive income at its finest. Even better, you keep your sellers focused on bigger business to keep your sales pipeline filled.

Who Is Booking

Shifting gears, let’s dive into who is booking. What market segments are driving instant bookings? 55.9% of the bookings fall into the SMERF (Social, Military, Educational, Religious, and Fraternal groups) segment.

Park City, Utah

When you examine the SMERF segment more closely, the two largest segments are Sports and Wedding business. Both segments are typically non-repeating business with no growth opportunity for your hotel. In other words, business your sellers shouldn’t be focused on.

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

For the 38.6% of the instant bookings in corporate, 80.0% of them have 40 room nights or less. Additionally, 67.7% occur within 16-60 days of arrival. These are smaller meetings booking closer to the arrival date. Letting the consumer handle the booking and then using those bookings for follow-up for long-term potential creates pipeline opportunity for your sellers.

Where Are Consumers Booking

Fifty-three countries and six hundred markets around the world received instant bookings. The top five countries are the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Mexico.

The top ten markets are Atlanta, GA, Washington, DC, Chicago, IL, Dallas, TX, Phoenix, AZ, Oakland, CA, Denver, CO, London, Los Angeles, CA, and Nashville, TN.

Regarding the type of market being booked, 45.2% of bookings occurred in tertiary markets, 33.5% in primary markets, and 21.3% of them were booked in secondary markets. While the top markets are dominated by primary markets, instant bookings are happening everywhere, and your hotel needs to be prepared.

Get Ahead of the Curve

Instant bookings are here, and they aren’t going anywhere. The closest comparison for most in the industry is the advent of online booking. Many said it would never be prevalent for many of the same reasons listed above. However, in 2023, 43% of all hotel guest rooms were booked online.1

Consumers are accustomed to booking what they want when they want. Group business shouldn’t be any different. This stands out in the smaller group category. This business often takes a tremendous amount of time and energy from your staff. Time that could be spent on larger groups and building a long-term pipeline of repeatable business. At this point, the question you should be asking is:

How can my hotel take advantage of instant group booking?

There are three simple things you need to get started on your journey and they aren’t that difficult.

1. Availability

You must be on the shelf to be booked. Do you have the ability to book more than nine rooms on your booking engine? If not, you need to be able to do that. If the ability exists, do you have inventory on the shelf? And, more importantly, do you have inventory on the shelf when consumers are looking? The earlier graph shows the average booking window for instant bookings globally. This might differ for your hotel. Look at your RFPs and inquiries to determine your volumes in those booking windows and make sure you have availability within those windows.

2. Marketing

This isn’t a tree falling in the woods scenario. You must tell customers this functionality is available. The data tells us SMERF-Sports and Weddings are prime targets for this shift. Take advantage of this target ripe environment and create marketing messages, emails, etc. to promote self-service functionality. And marketing doesn’t end with telling customers, it also includes putting your best foot forward with these customers in how you display for them. Do you have the right images for groups displayed? Does the copy on your website speak to the group consumer or only to the transient consumer? Having the right imagery and content can help those customers with the propensity to book online decide and stop shopping.

3. Follow-Up

You need a process both to service and grow business that books online. Almost 40% of the business is corporate business and some of the SMERF business is likely to have potential to repeat. Create a defined process of how you will service instant bookings and how you will qualify for future potential. This process will create three things:

a. The ability to create word of mouth exposure from one-time pieces of business who can tell others how well you treated them even though they were self-service bookers.

b. Help your sellers create a pipeline of future business by using each instant booking as a warm lead for future business.

c. By allowing the consumer to transact when they want and then treating them to world-class services, you are creating brand fans.

Now is the time to embrace instant group booking. Those hotels who invest early and lay a solid foundation will be the most successful. It’s time to let go of the myth and embrace the future. Consumers have changed their booking process are you ready to follow them to become a leader in selling?

1Amadeus – Hospitality Market Insights Report January 2024

Omni Hotels & Resorts Expand Instant Booking Capability

Omni Hotels & Resorts Expand Instant Booking Capability

All Omni properties will now offer the ability to book group guest rooms directly online through GroupSync™.

Omni Hotels and Resorts is now making it easier for meeting and event planners to book group guest rooms directly online by extending GroupSync’s Instant Booking capability to all Omni properties in the United States and Canada. This move will help streamline the often-complex process of booking hotel rooms for small groups, bypassing the traditional RFP-based booking process.

Instant Booking simplifies small group reservations

Small groups with short lead times are the cornerstones of today’s meetings and events landscape. To meet these needs, GroupSync offers the same online transparency and convenience planners have come to expect in their personal lives.

With this expansion, Omni is aiming to provide group travel organizers and planners with a faster, more convenient way to book small groups of 10-25 guest rooms in a single online transaction without having to contact the hotel directly. Automating these simpler group transactions will help both planners and Omni’s sales teams become more efficient.

For planners, Instant Booking and its real-time data integration with Omni will enable faster, better booking decisions. While Omni’s sales teams will now be able to focus more on the larger, more complex group bookings and events.

“We take great pride in being leaders and innovators in the meetings and events industry, so we are excited to now offer GroupSync technology across all of our properties,” said Dan Surette, chief sales officer at Omni Hotels & Resorts. “Our goal is to always provide a seamless experience for group business, and the ability to self-serve for smaller room blocks is an important option to offer planners. Our partnership with Groups360 allows us to continue to focus on what matters most to our guests, as we further elevate our brand’s offerings.”

GroupSync is radically improving the way hotels for groups, meetings and events are booked online. Its total number of guest rooms available for instant booking exceeds 1.7 million worldwide, with more inventory planned for the upcoming year. By providing greater transparency for group rates and availability, a faster booking process and intuitive technology, GroupSync is quickly becoming the preferred hotel booking solution for group events.


How group organizers and planners benefit

A faster booking process

Meeting and event planners can now book groups at any of Omni’s properties without going through an RFP-based booking process, resulting in faster turnaround times for booking group rooms.

Rate and availability transparency

With a direct data integration between Omni and GroupSync, planners receive real-time group rates and room availability, allowing more informed decisions while making the booking process more efficient.

Intuitive technology

Dedicated to only groups, GroupSync makes it easier for anyone to book guest rooms, streamlining the entire booking process online for all Omni properties and thousands of other hotels around the world.

“Omni is a leader among the meetings-focused hotel brands and they truly understand the value that GroupSync’s Instant Booking and Smart RFP can bring to their customers. This expansion is concrete evidence of our shared philosophy of making group travel simpler,” said Kemp Gallineau, CEO, Groups360. “We’re excited to see how this partnership will impact meeting and event planners by making hotel sourcing faster and easier, as well as the efficiencies this will bring to Omni’s sales organization.”

Group travel organizers and planners can visit groupsync.com to log in or sign up for a free account. For more information about GroupSync, please visit groups360.com.

To view the official press release from Omni, click here.

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.