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.

5 examples when instant group booking makes perfect sense

5 examples when instant group booking makes perfect sense

Instant Booking—the ability to book hotel room blocks and/or meeting space directly online—is finally a reality for the group travel industry.

And although this game-changing feature will have a very positive impact on group travel and meeting planning, this capability is still new to both group travel planners and hoteliers alike.

Putting it plainly, it enables an exciting, industry-wide change in how we think about booking hotels for groups. 

After all, smaller group stays and meetings now represent the majority of all group bookings. And [spoiler alert] smaller groups (10-25 rooms) and meetings (up to 50 attendees) are what GroupSync Instant Booking was designed for.

But this newer way of booking groups leads to the ultimate question travel organizers and planners may have…

“When does booking hotels instantly—vs an RFP or proposal process—make sense for me and my group?”

Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll break down our top 5 examples when Instant Booking makes perfect sense for you and your group event, instead of using GroupSync’s Smart RFP.

To see a quick video on how Instant Booking works, click here.


5 examples when booking group hotels instantly makes your life easier

Instant Booking is the fastest, easiest way to secure rooms and meeting space for your group. Suitable for both professional and personal uses, the need and convenience for Instant Booking may be more common than you think.

Let’s walk through our top five examples when Instant Booking is the best way to go.

1. You only need to book a meeting room

THE SCENARIO: The team needs your help with booking an off-site meeting that’s centrally located to all…with some presentation equipment and food/beverage breaks.

Executive assistants and meeting planners have long relied on the traditional phone tag with several hotels, or multiple RFPs just to book a sales kickoff, board meeting, or a team huddle.

While these old-school processes can take days or weeks before anything is contracted, GroupSync can help you solve this issue in minutes.

In GroupSync, you can quickly choose the location, meeting space, select your equipment needs and your catering options—all handled online, without an RFP or contacting the hotel.

2. You only need to book 10-25 sleeping rooms

THE SCENARIO: Maybe you’ve drawn the short straw as the “volunteer” to arrange travel for your kid’s soccer team tournament, a friend’s weekend trip, or perhaps you’ve got team members coming from out of town to visit the office.

Fear not. Booking 10+ sleeping rooms for your small group, no matter the reason, can be done easily with GroupSync. Within minutes, you can search, shop, and book the perfect hotel for your group stay—receiving group rates and availability in real-time as you shop.

3. You need to book a hotel during non-working hours

THE SCENARIO: It’s 10pm on Saturday night and you and your friends decide it’s time to finally book that weekend getaway. No more procrastinating – we’re doing it right here, right now.

Sometimes you need to book a hotel and there’s no one to contact for questions on rates and availability. It may be after hours, or on the weekend…it doesn’t matter, you just need it done on your schedule.

Instantly book what you need, when you need it, and on your own terms. Just like any other typical online purchase, you can tackle the task of booking group rooms or meeting space 24/7.

4. You have MAJOR time constraints and you need to book now!

THE SCENARIO: Oops! You just realized that you need to reserve hotel rooms for an upcoming event. No worries. No one will ever know that you waited until the last minute when you use GroupSync.

Okay, but what if this event is next week?

This is where Instant Booking shines. Since there’s no RFP process to manage, and no direct communication with the hotel sales team, you’re able to book your group instantly online with an immediate confirmation.

5. You need to book a complete meeting with out-of-towners

THE SCENARIO: You need to book an off-site breakfast meeting for the team so they can present the quarterly projections. This meeting’s going to require lots of coffee and snacks!

In a single online booking using GroupSync, you can secure 10-25 guest rooms, meeting space, A/V equipment and catering—everything you need for a complete meeting, all in the same booking.


There you have it, our top examples of when Instant Booking can help you for both personal and professional group needs. Only GroupSync offers Instant Booking for group rooms and meeting space, at scale. To sign up for a FREE GroupSync account, visit

5 real-life reasons to book a hotel room block

5 real-life reasons to book a hotel room block

When you have the task of arranging a hotel for a group event, you’ll quickly find yourself emersed in a world of information gathering, RFPs, and hotel proposals that need to be collected, analyzed, and compared as you search for the perfect hotel for your group event.

After all, you want to ensure you get the best group rate, a great location, and the amenities you need.

It’s a lot to juggle and manage. And there are plenty of hotel considerations to keep in mind when trying to make your crew happy:

● Room rates
● Location
● Availability
● Climate
● Amenities
● Property style
● Nearby activities

Depending on your group event, you may have even more considerations, but group rates, location, and availability are likely at the top of your list.

Pro Tip: It’s helpful to know that hotels consider a group to be 10+ rooms.

If you’ve ever tried to book 10+ guestrooms at once, you’ve likely experienced the challenges of how hotels manage group reservations.

Even your common Google search or online travel booking website will force you down a path of complex RFPs and time-consuming effort—the after effects of not having all your information centralized.

This is the exact reason why we created GroupSync, to simplify the group hotel booking process—for pro and non-pro planners alike.

GroupSync – book a group stay like a planning pro

When it comes time to find and book a hotel for your group, you’ll want the process to be easy and efficient…much like online shopping. GroupSync is all you need to search, shop, and book your hotel.

And with GroupSync, you get two ways to book, depending on your group’s size.

GroupSync Instant Booking

For smaller groups, you’ll be able to take advantage of Instant Booking—the fastest and easiest way to reserve your room block…even meeting space if needed.

If you’re looking to book 10-25 hotel rooms with a short booking window and want the convenience of online shopping, GroupSync’s got you covered. Best thing is, there’s no RFP process, you book immediately, and lock in your group rate.

GroupSync Smart RFP

And if your group event is on the larger size, GroupSync’s RFP process is a simpler way to book more than 25 guestrooms. Great thing is you’ll only create one RFP to send to all your short-listed hotels, and we made the overall booking timeframe shorter than what others can deliver.

Whether it’s your first time working with an RFP (Request for Proposal) or you’re a tried-and-true event planning professional, GroupSync Smart RFP simplifies the process.

GroupSync – perfect for anyone planning a group trip

There’s always an occasion to get a group together or to travel with friends and family. Consider the top everyday reasons to book a group, which one fits your need this year?


Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Event #1 – Friend Trip

Find yourself organizing a fun friend trip? Reconnecting with those you haven’t seen in a while? Whether your planning a bachelorette weekend, friend reunion, girls’ or guys’ weekend; you’ll have a ton of decisions to make.

GroupSync can make the hotel planning easier, starting with your destination city if suggestions are needed. Then, search hotels with the on-site amenities, nearby activities and points of interest to stay close to the action and minimize your transportation logistics.

Event #2 – DIY Wedding

Flowers, location, and gowns, oh my. Wedding planning can be fun and a little overwhelming, especially if you’re planning it all yourself.

Fortunately, you can simplify your guestrooms and venue planning with GroupSync. Search for the most relevant hotels by location, dates, amenities, and of course, your budget. There’s no need to wade through hotels that don’t meet your needs, GroupSync will score and rank your results based on what matters most to you.

You can even share your shortlisted hotels with your friends and family to get some help with your decision. Once you choose your hotel, you can use Instant Booking for smaller weddings between 10-25 guestrooms or use GroupSync Smart RFP for larger weddings.

Either way, ensure you understand the group attrition clause and tips to avoid penalties during your special time.

Event #3 – Team Sports Travel

Are you a coach or parent helping to make hotel arrangements for a sporting event? Away games and sports tournaments require family-friendly accommodations like on-site breakfast options and a swimming pool for keeping everyone entertained in their downtime.

You can discover what’s available within your destination with just a few clicks. GroupSync makes it easy to find the perfect hotel for your sporting event, even if you’re needing a heated pool in the middle of winter.

Event #4 – Family Reunion Time

Planning a small, medium, or large family reunion often requires travel and a need for hotel accommodations…no matter if it’s a local reunion or at some other destination.

You’ll also need to accommodate multiple age groups, interests, and different accessibility requirements. Keep everyone comfortable by inputting your criteria into GroupSync and find suitable accommodations in minutes.

Event #5 – The Group Amusement Park Trip

Planning to take a large family or group to an amusement park? You’ll probably need a room block to go with those matching colored t-shirts. GroupSync makes it easy to find your hotel based on proximity to the park, lowest group rates, and any other criteria your thrill enthusiasts will need.

With smaller groups (10-25 rooms), use GroupSync to find everything you need to make immediate reservations with Instant Booking. It’s the fastest and easiest way to book your group stay, even faster than that roller coaster you’re having second thoughts about.

There are a lot of real-life reasons when you’ll need to book group accommodations. GroupSync will make the booking process easier so you can focus on other aspects of your trip. If you want to simplify your group hotel reservations and get the best group rates for your event, give our online booking marketplace a try—sign up for free today.


It’s About Time: 5 Faster Ways to Source a Venue

It’s About Time: 5 Faster Ways to Source a Venue

As seen on 

Time is a planner’s most precious resource. Make the most of it by utilizing venue sourcing technology to cut through the clutter and book your meeting essentials at record speed, leaving you free to get back to what you do best: creating event magic.

If there’s one quality that makes the best event planners stand out from the crowd, it’s creativity. When it comes to the growing trend towards festivalization and experiential design, it’s absolutely essential. And in the age of rapidly-advancing artificial intelligence, creativity is a soft skill that will only grow in importance. The problem with creativity, however, is that it takes time — arguably both the most valuable and the scarcest resource that a planner has. To keep up in this new high-performance era, planners will have to find efficiencies in managing the logistical legwork behind meetings and events. Fortunately, new technology is arriving just in the nick of time to streamline one of the most stressful aspects of the job: venue sourcing.

“It’s about time,” says Tim Flors, senior vice president and chief customer officer of Groups360. Working closely with the world’s top hotel brands, Groups360 has made its hotel booking platform available at no charge for event organizers. Called GroupSync, the platform includes multiple tools and features that help to speed up the entire venue bookings process. Many meeting planners have already converted to the new way of doing business.

Think of it as an automated assistant that comes with a readymade set of RFP templates, checklists of selection criteria, and real-time data on the best available group rates for your selected dates. Then once you’ve pinpointed the right venue at the right price, it can lock those rates up for you with instant booking or an RFP. Discover 5 ways that this new tech can help you work smarter, not harder.

1. Skip the Waiting Period: Book Instantly

There are few bottlenecks more frustrating than going through the hoops of an RFP process when you already know exactly what you want, particularly if you’re trying to book a small meeting on short notice. We live in a world where it’s standard to book leisure travel instantly at the click of a button. It’s about time that group bookings caught up.

At long last, meeting planners can avoid the tiresome delays of waiting for RFP responses altogether — with GroupSync, you’re able to instantly book overnight rooms for small groups at over 9,000 hotel properties on the platform. To put that in more concrete terms, over 1.4 million group guest rooms are available for instant booking at best-available group rates, along with 66,000 meeting and event venues. And just as you can filter for properties offering incentives, you can narrow your search to hotels that have enabled Instant Booking.

Lock Down Rooms, Meeting Space, A/V Equipment & Catering

You’ll be able to see how many of each room type is available for your chosen dates, and modify your occupancy pattern to accommodate individual arrival and departure times by changing the quantity and type of each room on a specific date. You’ll also be able to review the contract before confirming, and all of the hotel’s standard policies and loyalty points will apply.

More and more brands are also making meeting space, catering, and A/V equipment available for instant booking. Want an LCD projector for your meeting space? And maybe a flipchart easel with markers for collaborative brainstorming?

How about a plate of vegan nachos at 2:15 pm? You can iron out all the details in one go, confident in the knowledge that everything you need will be available. And that ultimately means more peace of mind — and precious time — to dedicate to the creative side of planning your event.

Park City, Utah

“I can unequivocally recommend GroupSync,” says Michael Gagnon, founder and CEO of the Academic Orthopaedic Consortium. “Within minutes it provided me with top tier hotels, pricing options, perks and the micro details associated with all of this — within or below my budget.”

Similarly, hotel partners are also experiencing time-saving benefits that allow their sales teams to devote more time to their big wins. “Moving our meeting rooms to direct online booking has brought us enormous benefits. We are happy because our team members are freed up to focus their time and effort on larger revenue opportunities,” explains Keith Hudspith, head of food and beverage for Premier Inn Hotels.

2. Get to the Good Stuff: Find Your Perfect Venue Quickly

Even if you still haven’t landed on your dream venue, there are faster ways to develop a short list of top candidates. When time is of the essence, you don’t want to spend precious hours brainstorming destination or venue ideas, then sifting through mountains of options to find what might work for your requirements. With GroupSync, you can name your event, set your dates and preferences, and start browsing the system instantly.

Identify and Rank Venues & Destinations Against Key Priorities

Narrow down what’s out there by selecting the priorities that are most relevant to you from the outset. In its market research, GroupSync found that the following categories repeatedly came up on planners’ must-have checklists when evaluating potential destinations and venues:

• Room pricing
• Outdoor temperatures
• Specific amenities (e.g. a fitness center, onsite restaurants, etc.)
• Distance to the airport
• The availability of direct flights from your attendees’ top departing cities

For this reason, GroupSync lays out all these categories in a simple interface at the beginning of your search. You just have to input your preferences among the options — and if some aren’t relevant, you can skip them. To make things even easier, you can rank these requests in terms of importance.

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Vet Venues Based on Pre-Calculated Meeting Space Needs

Meeting space requirements can be another major headache, particularly since different room layouts will require different space allotments for a given number of meeting participants. Wouldn’t it be great to know from the outset whether a venue will have the type of meeting rooms you’ll need, with the right amount of space in each?

GroupSync has found a solution here as well. You can indicate from the outset whether meeting space will be required, and if so, whether you’ll need breakout rooms, a ballroom, or an exhibit hall. A built-in calculator lets you know how much square footage you’ll need depending on attendance numbers and the seating arrangements you choose. All of this automation makes it easy to nail down your meeting space requirements from the outset — lowering the tedious legwork even further and reducing the need for repeat visits to check on the space once you’ve made your choice.

Let AI Do the Heavy Research for You

The system will then leverage massive data feeds and powerful algorithms to help you home in on the most suitable options and find the perfect fit for your event — leaving you free to dedicate your time to working your magic elsewhere. Suggested destinations are even given a score that shows how well they match your criteria.

“GroupSync has truly transformed our planning process and has been a bigger benefit than I ever could have anticipated,” says Jason Ferrill, admissions experience officer of the National Christian Counselors Association.

There are no paid placements, so you can rest easy knowing that the recommended destinations and venues really are the best available options for your event.

3. Skip the Small Talk: Don’t Waste Time Sending Mismatched RFPs

Ever sent out an RFP and waited a week for a response, only to find out that your dates are no longer available, or the pricing is out of your budget? With GroupSync you can save time on both sides of the equation by accessing all the information you need upfront. The GroupSync platform can streamline the RFP process at 203,783 hotels globally.

First, it enables you to browse details about meeting space and amenities and see both real-time availability and the best available group rates. Second, the platform also automatically generates RFP templates based on your search criteria, speeding up the process of getting the information you need even more.

The standard template covers the key questions, such as when you need the space and what type of space you’re looking for, and allows you to add multiple meeting space requirements. You can then also add food and beverage needs and requests, plus any other attachments drilling down into the specifics of your event.

Aside from saving your time, doing everything through the online platform helps to keep everything organized in one place. No more bouncing between emails, file-sharing services (like DropBox and Google Drive), paper print outs, and multiple hotel booking sites.

4. Hit Your Targets: Get a Faster Response from Venues

Traditionally, you might have had to work through a new RFP every time you approached a new property. But with GroupSync, you can send RFPs to multiple different properties at the same time – saving you the headache of going through the same process over and over again, as well as making it easier to compare answers like-for-like across properties.

Being able to reach more matching properties at once means you’re likely to find the right fit faster. This saves time for hotel sales staff as well. And since the GroupSync platform is fully intergrated with the booking systems of partner hotels, the venue’s sales team is able to skip several manual entry steps that they would normally need to take when reviewing RFPs. In turn, they’re able to respond that much faster.

“The entire team loves the way GroupSync simplifies and automates the process, which is saving them considerable time,” explains Norman Leong, director of reservations for Swissotel the Stamford & Fairmont Singapore.

5. Get Simple Sign Off: Easy Price Comparisons Your Executives Will Love

Inflation and price rises mean that companies everywhere are tightening their belts — and that meeting planners are under ever more pressure to show that they’re spending their budgets wisely and securing the best deals for the company.

GroupSync’s comparison tool, GroupSync Insight, uses AI to calculate the best windows for booking, even taking into account which lead times are likely to get you the best rates. In keeping, it will warn you if you’re sourcing your venue outside the optimal range, so you can consider whether to shift your dates to secure top savings.

To help you find the information you need to impress your company executives, GroupSync also sifts through a wealth of data to evaluate average hotel rates in each destination based on the time of year. You can access all of this data on pricing and occupancy rates in easy-to-read charts to help you evaluate whether properties are charging above or below the norm — and how likely they are to sell out. This information is not only handy for gauging how early you’ll need to nail down a contract, but is also valuable context for contract negotiation purposes.

To show you’ve really done your homework, you can browse other nearby venues to compare real-time group rates. This can help you spotlight properties or geographical areas you might not otherwise have considered, but which represent a better deal for you and your company.

Cost-Saving Tools

Want a little extra from your booking? There’s also an option to filter venues by those offering incentives, as well as instantly apply rewards or loyalty programs, such as Marriott’s Bonvoy points, to make the deal a little sweeter. Plus, you can use your account as an automated record of your company event spend. Bases covered!

“GroupSync has been such a tremendous help for us,” says Craig Keilitz, executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association. “I can’t imagine doing business like we have over the last few years without it. It’s been absolutely incredible, and it’s saved us money.”

Visit Groups360 now to request log-in credentials and begin saving time using the GroupSync service free of charge.

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.

More intention, less waste—is it time to rethink event swag?

More intention, less waste—is it time to rethink event swag?

How many among us hear the word “swag” without thinking of Michael Scott from The Office?

It’s admittedly fun to leave a trade show loaded down with free merchandise. Drawstring bag? Yes, please.

“I keep them in so many random places for when I need to pop into the shop,” said editor and writing coach Elisa Doucette.

But as an element of your marketing efforts, not to mention your budget, just how valuable is it?

The disposability of conference swag—a multi-billion-dollar industry—makes it clear that the research, branding, ordering, delivery, etc. of this event element is a wasted effort. That is, if you’re opting to distribute the wrong sort of swag.

What’s the right kind of swag? We’ll get there. But first, let’s talk about if it’s even worth it.

Does swag make an impact?

On the one hand, yes, in that it increases your brand’s visibility and offers a little dopamine spike (everyone loves a freebie).

But that’s mostly anecdotal. Here’s why:

What is swag’s ROI?

None of the companies we spoke with measured event swag ROI. That can be concerning for ROI-numbers-loving leadership, but these organizations were mostly unphased. The general attitude we encountered is “This is how we’ve always been doing it.”

“We don’t really measure the ROI,” said Kelvin Newman, founder and managing director of Rough Agenda. “It’s mostly a perk of certain event tickets, so effectively they’re paid for rather than a true freebie. It’s less of a reason people buy that ticket type, but it’s a nice perk and is a memorable way for us to get across our brand.”

And while these freebies are designed to attract attention—what’s that logo? what’s the company name say?—“they come with strings attached,” said Christiaan Huynen, CEO and founder at

“The goal of the freebies is to get people that use the merch to be living advertisements and unconsciously influence others to be curious about your brand,” Huynen said.

What percentage of an event’s budget is devoted to swag?

For the broad category of “merch,” Newman said, he spends about 5% of an event’s total budget.

Bethan Vincent, founder of Open Velocity and a marketing consultant who focuses on clients in the tech space, said 10-20% of an event’s cost is allocated to promotional items.

“[We] advise clients that quality over quantity goes a long way,” she said.

In full disclosure, Groups360 is on the swag train, too.

“We distribute swag at shows, typically for high-value conversion actions such as attending a demo—so there is an ROI measuring component. And it’s often higher quality, multipurpose, or useable well after the show,” said marketing director Brett Raymond.

When we talk “quality,” we mean items like tumblers or AirTags instead of a cheap plastic keychain or branded hat no one will wear.

What’s the environmental impact of swag?

Most plastic, even that which people attempt to recycle, goes to a landfill. There are more Earth-friendly swag options out there than plastic or one-use items. (We talk about some of the ways to reduce event waste here.)

“A lot of my clients are now questioning the providence and sustainability of the swag they order for events, conferences, and employees,” said Vincent. “I’ve seen a marked shift away from plastic items and a considered move to locally produced, recycled, or recyclable options. I think there’s also a recognition that providing seemingly sustainable options such as branded water bottles are still contributing to the plastic problem. Clients are now really looking at every aspect of sustainability and making purchase decisions accordingly.”

Sustainable merchandise can hang around for longer to work its advertising magic, but Huynen said it’s only a good option if the company can afford it.

So … yes or no to swag?

The bottom line: swag isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But where you can create a more valuable merchandising experience is by going from:

Cheap → sustainable 

Swag for swag’s sake → intentional

Marketing should be intentional and authentic for a lasting effect, not performative or “because we should.” Post-pandemic, the type of promotional product needed to shift. It didn’t make sense to give out reusable travel coffee containers when everyone was drinking coffee from their home office. We started to see more branded face masks and hand sanitizers.

“Tying swag to intention is everything,” said Kate Bradley Chernis, founder and CEO of Lately, an AI social post generator. Trade show attendees should draw meaning from the swag they pick up.

“Hate to break it to you, but I need someone else’s logo on a t-shirt like I need a hole in my head. Don’t forget: merch done well isn’t about you. It’s about me. What will make me lean forward, go woweeeee, snap a picture and share the living buhjeezus out of it? That’s your end game. Back into it.”

Mic drop.