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.

3 ways to speed up your meeting planning

3 ways to speed up your meeting planning

As published by BizBash

Upgrade your booking methods, accelerate your process and reclaim your time

It’s an exciting time to be in the meetings and events industry as in-person gatherings continue to pick up speed.

How many group events or meetings are you currently planning? Probably more than you care to count—and with lead times that keep shrinking.

That’s why your planning process needs to keep up with your workload. To take more on and to get it done faster, planning efficiency is key—especially when sourcing and booking hotels.

Here are three ways to supercharge your meeting planning and regain valuable time.

1. Upgrade your sourcing methods

Are you still relying on search engines, online venue directories, individual hotel websites or word of mouth to find a meeting venue?

Traditional methods can take months of wading through overwhelming amounts of information. For busy meeting planners and travel organizers, these outdated approaches simply take too long.

Even after the arrival of digital RFPs, planners have had to fill out extensive entries into expensive legacy sourcing systems, only to receive results populated with paid placements irrelevant to your program.

GroupSync™ accelerates your search by providing a curated list of destinations and properties that fit your needs.

Sourcing on GroupSync will shave weeks, even months, off the time it takes to book your group rooms and meeting space, allowing you to focus on creating a fantastic attendee experience.

What’s more, GroupSync is free to use for travel organizers and planners.


 Get your free GroupSync account now >>

2. Send more strategic RFPs

For years, planners have had to send rounds of RFPs just to verify pricing and availability—and then wait for hotels to (hopefully) respond.

You can fast-track your booking process by strategically selecting hotels on the GroupSync Marketplace. GroupSync helps you find destinations and hotels that fit best with your program, within your budget.

No more phone tag and endless emails in search of what you need to make an informed decision. You can easily craft a single RFP to send to your ideal hotels selected from over 200,000 properties worldwide on GroupSync.


3. Book groups instantly online

Imagine how much faster your planning process would be if you could skip the RFPs altogether.

With GroupSync Instant Booking, you can now book room blocks, meeting space or both in a single online purchase, 24/7.

Ideal for smaller, simpler meetings, GroupSync Instant Booking gives you access to live rates and inventory at nearly 9,000 hotels worldwide.

Speed up your planning process by booking your next hotel on GroupSync—the technology changing the way the industry books groups.


Don’t miss out!
Instant Booking for Marriott’s portfolio of hotels across the United States and Canada has launched on GroupSync.

To celebrate, Marriott International is giving away 1 million Marriott Bonvoy® points to planners who book Marriott properties on GroupSync. Enter now for your chance to win, click here for details.


To sign up for a FREE GroupSync account, visit

Rethinking the hotel booking process for groups

Rethinking the hotel booking process for groups

As published by BTN

The rapid evolution of business meetings and events has motivated planners to seek out technology to help them adapt to the changes.

For decades, meeting planners have expressed frustration with the longstanding hotel RFP process for booking groups. And the earliest digital RFPs simply sped up an already cumbersome process, rather than rethinking it altogether.

As hospitality industry veterans, the Groups360 team has been both behind and in front of the hotel check-in desk. We created GroupSync™ to provide a better, faster, more targeted way for meeting organizers to search, source and book hotel rooms and meeting space.

Create a Standout RFP

One of the primary advantages of the GroupSync Marketplace is its proprietary algorithm, designed to match you with destinations and properties that align with your specific needs and preferences. Your search starts by inputting your ideal destination, event dates, room count, average daily room rate, meeting space requirements and distance from airports, as well as preferred hotel brands and amenities.

From among more than 200,000 properties around the world, GroupSync search results include only properties that can accommodate your group. Destinations and hotels are also scored according to how well they align with your needs and preferences. And unlike legacy systems, there are no paid placements—only properties that can accommodate your group based on your criteria.

GroupSync search results also highlight properties with incentives that align with your program, as well as those with need dates that might give you a price advantage on room rates. The detailed, well-informed RFPs you produce on GroupSync can lead to faster, better responses from hotels and frees you to focus on what matters most—your event.


Book Rooms and Space Instantly Online

Instant Booking allows planners to book room blocks, meeting space or both, as well as A/V, F&B and more, in a single online purchase on GroupSync.

Ideal for the smaller, simpler meetings currently driving the industry’s recovery, GroupSync Instant Booking connects meeting organizers to 1 million available rooms—soon to be 3 million—at 20,000 leading hotels. In 2023, meeting space will be available for booking at thousands of properties.

Customized search results display which of the preselected hotels offer Instant Booking, and planner login credentials reflect group rates previously negotiated with your preferred hotels.

GroupSync’s live hotel room inventory—from Hilton, IHG, Marriott and Omni, as well as a growing number of other leading brands—can also inform your sourcing process so you can know before submitting an RFP if a hotel can accommodate your room block.

The most innovative technology companies don’t simply digitize existing processes—they reimagine a better way to do business. 

Get Ready to Hit the Road

According to recent surveys, 80% of planners intend to prioritize in-person events once it’s safe to do so, and 72% of hybrid meeting attendees believe they’ll get more value from the in-person experience. And 68% of planners for B2B marketing events say face-to-face interaction generates more leads.

Professionals agree that conventions, conferences and client meetings are best experienced face-to-face. Nothing can replace the enthusiasm, interpersonal connections, new business opportunities or increased ROI of an in-person gathering.

That’s why Groups360 is dedicated to empowering meeting planners to bring people together more easily, more effectively and more often.


Marriott International is giving away 1 million Bonvoy points—get started with a free GroupSync account >

Instant Booking Ushers in New Era of Transparency for Group Rates

Instant Booking Ushers in New Era of Transparency for Group Rates

As published by Skift Meetings

In today’s pressure-cooker environment, planners want the same immediacy and variety as in their online grocery shopping. GroupSync’s instant booking gives them the faster, smarter decision-making capabilities they crave.

Skift Meetings’ recent State of Business Events survey found that over 75 percent of event planners are now facing shorter lead times. At the same time, venue bookings are being snatched up quickly as the industry begins to return to 2019 levels — with small meetings even surpassing pre-pandemic numbers. All of these factors mean that planners have to jump on the best deals as quickly as possible, or risk being shut out entirely from their top choices.

In years past, meeting planners could rely on their network of contacts to scope out the best rates and strike a deal, but with so much industry turnover during the pandemic, those connections might have moved on. And neither planners nor hotels want to deal with a stack of rapid-fire RFPs sent high and low. Fortunately, instant booking platforms are emerging to help stop the gap and create a new culture of transparency around group rates.

The recent announcement of the launch of Marriott International’s U.S. and Canada properties on GroupSync Marketplace is a sign of what is soon to become the industry standard, with hotels allowing event professionals to browse real-time group rates and book group guest rooms, meeting space, food & beverage, and audio/visual services in a single transaction instantly, online. Marriott and Groups360 are celebrating the launch with a 1 million Bonvoy points giveaway.

Book Smarter, More Streamlined, and at Scale

Marriott International is the first brand to have a direct integration with GroupSync Marketplace to offer instant booking for both guest rooms and meeting space at scale. In a squeezed market where bookings are being snapped up at a record rate, the ability to browse over 1,500 Marriott properties across the United States and Canada provides some much-needed breathing space to meeting planners.

Instant Booking for Small Meetings

Planners have access to real-time best available group rates and inventory for small meetings at these properties, with more to be added in 2023. Marriott’s definition of a small meeting is 10 to 25 guest rooms on peak and/or events for up to 50 attendees, available to book as little as 4 days out and up to 1 year out with a maximum length of stay of 7 days. However, each brand or property may set their own on-peak maximums and booking windows, so these parameters may vary as more hotel groups sign onto the GroupSync platform.

Total Transparency for Group Rates

Importantly, planners are seeing exactly the same pricing that the hotel sales team would see on their internal systems. “Today, whether a customer tries to book a 10-25 room group on, GroupSync, or calls one of our hotels directly, they will receive the same rate,” says Drew Pinto, Global Officer Global Sales, Distribution and Revenue Management at Marriott International. “Keeping rates consistent across our direct channels is crucial to giving our customers confidence to use GroupSync Instant Booking.”

Faster RFP Responses

Marriott’s integration with GroupSync isn’t just about providing clarity over rates and the option to book small meetings instantly; it also speeds up the traditional RFP process on both ends. Because the system removes some manual entry steps on the hotel side, planners can expect a faster response. And while this automation might streamline the beginning of the process, planners can rest assured that their relationship with the brand remains intact. “Whether a customer submits an RFP through GroupSync or any of our direct sales channels, that customer and corresponding group rate will be negotiated based on the event details and relationship with Marriott,” Pinto says.

Established Client Relationships

Further, whether planners opt to book instantly or submit an RFP, the system will automatically apply any MSAs (master service agreements) that they’ve previously negotiated. By the same token, planners can expect all the same perks no matter which booking route they choose. “We make sure that all those special requirements that you have — the acknowledgement, the welcome gifts — that all still happens,” explains Pinto.

Saving Planners’ Most Valued Resource: Time

Meeting planners are working in a pressure-cooker environment as the demand for small meetings heats up. Thanks to the increase in hybrid and remote work, face-to-face time now comes at a premium. It’s in this new paradigm that GroupSync’s instant booking tools are emerging as a viable option — just in time.

The traditional sourcing process can be long and painful. Particularly when it comes to small, simple meetings, having to send an RFP and wait three days or more just to secure basic information about availability, specifications, and rates can be frustrating, especially when time is of the essence.

Instant Booking for Catering, AV, and Equipment

With GroupSync, planners can instantly book what and when they need to — including AV, catering, and any other equipment. “This deal marks a landmark for group booking,” says Kemp Gallineau, CEO of Groups360. “It’s the first time an actual planner or an organizer, whether professional or non-professional, can go onto a site and book rooms and space to include catering and equipment without having to send an RFP.”

Time to Focus on Creative Meeting Design

This streamlined booking process has the added benefit of freeing up time to spend on the more complex and creative elements of planning a meeting or event. And that means meeting professionals can focus more energy on designing the moments of connection that provide the most value to attendees. With small meetings now filling a vital role in fostering collaboration and energizing company culture, there has never been greater need for planners to think carefully about how to make the most of these high-value experiences.

Visibility Across Corporate Teams

The GroupSync system also creates more visibility across big corporations, which can create a company-wide account with individual account access, all of which is trackable. With more and more corporate departments organizing small meetings to bring remote teams together, this kind of visibility has never been more important.

Shaping the Future of Booking Meetings

The launch of instant group booking is timely, but it has been many years in the making. This long process is a reflection of just how much thought went into each element.

Having worked in hospitality for over 30 years, CEO Kemp Gallineau drew from his deep industry knowledge from the very earliest stages of product development. In fact, it was during his tenure as Chief Sales Officer for Gaylord Entertainment (now Ryman Hospitality) that he saw an opportunity for the group sales process to be made more efficient. Thus began many years of product development and hotel negotiations. In his words, Groups360 is an “overnight success, nine years in the making.”

Rather than reaching the finish line, however, the GroupSync platform is on the path to build further momentum. “It takes a while to make things happen, but we’re excited, and we truly believe this is the pinnacle of what’s possible in the years to come,” he says.

What’s Next

GroupSync is already in use and working effectively, but it also continues to evolve. Both Groups360 and Marriott are seeking to continually improve the system, and have put mechanisms in place to capture regular feedback. “As trust and confidence grows, much like you’ve seen in other online platforms, consumers get more comfortable with the transparency and the way it works,” says Gallineau. “What’s exciting is both Marriott and Groups 360 are going to learn from the consumer through the way we use it.”

For meeting planners, this marks a key time to shape the direction of a product that will soon be vital to their daily work. Customer success agents at Groups360 will be monitoring and polling meeting planners about their experience. Marriott similarly encourages customers to try it out and tell them what they liked, what they didn’t, and what could be improved. “We’re all about making their lives easier,” Pinto says. “We want attendees staying at our hotels to be able to take advantage of their own point plans and be treated to all their custom preferences and privileges.”

The next step is rapid expansion of the product. According to Gallineau, “Currently we have the ability to send RFPs to over 200,000 hotels worldwide. Over the next few months we expect to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 hotels, mainly in the United States and Canada, that will be able to have bookable online inventory — either booking group rooms, group space, or rooms and space together.”

A New Era for Meeting Planners

When people shop online, they expect to see prices and availability immediately for most things. Although booking group meetings online is more complex than buying a pair of shoes or sunglasses, planners still want to see enough variety to be able to compare options and make fast, confident decisions. GroupSync provides this immediacy and flexibility, meaning that soon meeting planners will be able to browse through venue options armed with the most vital information: pricing and availability.

In addition to Marriott International, the Hilton, IHG, and Omni hotel groups have already enabled instant booking of group guest rooms for over 8,000 properties worldwide. It will only be a matter of time before meeting space inventory becomes available for instant booking across the board.

In the current climate, it’s easy to see the appeal of a system that lets planners narrow down viable venues quickly. Thanks to a growing list of hotel partners signing up for full transparency, the GroupSync Marketplace is now able to streamline every stage of venue procurement, from initial research to final closing. So if an instant booking platform isn’t on a planner’s wishlist already, it should be.

Have you heard? Marriott is giving away 1 million Marriott Bonvoy® points to celebrate their launch of Instant Booking on GroupSync. To learn more and to set up a free GroupSync account, click here