How Omni’s instant group booking announcement is breaking new ground in hospitality

How Omni’s instant group booking announcement is breaking new ground in hospitality

There’s a rule of thumb in event planning that says the best time to source is when hotels want to sell.

While this may sound obvious, most group travel planners find this advice far from easy to follow. A lack of easily accessible property information pertaining to groups, including rates and availability, makes it challenging for planners to determine where they should focus their sourcing time and effort – and even then, legacy RFP processes create literally months of work for both group travel planners and hoteliers who simply need to identify the perfect hotel to work with.

These and many other pain points are the reason why we do what we do. At its core, our mission is to make booking groups less complicated – and Instant Booking is just one piece of that strategy. Group travel planners can now book guest room blocks or meeting space in one instant, online transaction on GroupSync. The capability is available at nearly 7,000 properties worldwide, with an additional 20,000 properties expected to begin offering Instant Booking within the next year.

And our expansion doesn’t stop there. Today, Omni Hotels & Resorts became the first brand ever to offer GroupSync Instant Booking for both group rooms and meeting space. The move breaks new ground in the business of group travel, and Omni’s rollout serves as a roadmap for more hoteliers to drive innovation

Breaking new ground in group booking

Starting with the Omni Frisco Hotel in Frisco, Texas, the capability to book rooms and space instantly is an industry first that will become available at more than 50 Omni properties in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Searching, sourcing and booking groups at Omni properties will be as simple as any other online shopping you do today.

“This technology provides an on-demand booking option for planners who seek to book a small room block and meeting space with ease and confidence,” said Peter Palli, chief commercial officer for Omni Hotels & Resorts. “We take great pride in being leaders and innovators in the meetings and events industry, so we were eager to explore the opportunity to adopt paradigm-shifting technology destined to change the way hotels have been booking groups.”

One of the unfortunate realities of event planning has always been that sourcing venues for a small group usually takes just as long as it would for a large event. Seasoned group travel organizers know that if a hotel is stuck using the traditional RFP process, it won’t matter if they’re planning a 15-person corporate offsite or coordinating a group of 500 that needs a hotel banquet room – legacy RFP processing means sourcing takes time, a long time. (An average of 75 days from start to RFP award date.)

It’s also true that hotel sales managers, who are motivated by quarterly closings and sales goals, are more driven to close with planners who can sign within a short timeline in order to meet those goals. GroupSync Instant Booking provides a win-win for both parties: planners drastically reduce the time they spend sourcing – often by 60 days or more – and hoteliers can easily fill booking windows without the sales effort by selling them online, 24/7 via Instant Booking.

“Omni’s innovation will significantly benefit its staff and their customers by automating group bookings, allowing more time to focus on those things that create a great experience,” said Kemp Gallineau, CEO of Groups360.

Learn more about GroupSync Instant Booking and its role in transforming group travel:
Groups360 raises $35M in funding to support rapid growth

Groups360 raises $35M in funding to support rapid growth

Groups360’s $35 million investment from Zigg Capital, Blackstone Innovations Investments and Fir Tree Partners will accelerate the adoption of GroupSync technology for hoteliers and planners worldwide.

We’re excited to announce that Zigg Capital, Blackstone Innovations Investments and Fir Tree Partners have invested a combined $35 million in Groups360 to enhance our GroupSync platform. The funding will help speed up the development of products that create greater efficiency in group booking, accelerate the launch of housing solutions for better room block management, and expand our operations to bring GroupSync’s cutting edge technology to hoteliers in Europe and Asia Pacific.

“Meeting planners increasingly expect their entire hotel purchase experience to be seamless, instantaneous, and online,” said Dave Eisenberg, founding partner at Zigg Capital. “Groups360 has built an integrated, intuitive platform that benefits hoteliers and event organizers anywhere in the world.”

Creating ease, efficiency and transparency

GroupSync has changed what it means to source and book hotels for groups. Hotels on our marketplace are positioned to drive more valuable group revenue, experience more efficient RFP and room block management, and receive more qualified leads. Our suite of products is designed to help hoteliers create more value in less time, with fewer resources.

As the no. 1 hotel marketplace for booking groups, GroupSync’s enhanced electronic RFP capability empowers planners to more efficiently search, source and book groups at over 200,000 properties worldwide. This single web-based solution provides greater access to hotel group inventory and rates for faster, smoother booking.

As a result of this rapid adoption of GroupSync technology, we anticipate that an additional 20,000 leading hotel properties will begin offering instant group booking in the months ahead. Already available at nearly 7,000 properties globally, instant booking gives planners the option to skip the RFP process for smaller group reservations, taking hotel sourcing time from months to minutes.

“Groups360 offers a solution that is truly differentiated in the marketplace,” said John Stecher, Chief Technology Officer at Blackstone. “The Blackstone Innovations Investments team is focused on identifying, investing in, and partnering with pioneering companies like Groups360 to help take their businesses to the next stage of growth. We believe that Groups360’s inventory distribution model and instant booking capability will help drive industry-wide transformation and can create value for Blackstone’s real estate portfolio.”

We’re on a mission to make group travel better for all – from hoteliers to event planners to attendees. This investment will play an important role in accelerating our efforts to improve group booking across the hospitality industry.

“Groups360 is reshaping the hospitality industry in a manner that makes booking groups simple, transparent, and efficient for both hotels and event organizers,” said Kemp Gallineau, CEO, Groups360. “Now, with support from our new partners, Groups360 is positioned to more quickly seize the opportunities which lie ahead for improving group travel.”

 

3 trends that signal we’re entering a new era of group travel

3 trends that signal we’re entering a new era of group travel

Following group travel trends over the past couple of years has been a rollercoaster. Between fluctuating national priorities and the uncertainty posed by an ongoing global pandemic, the business of organizing and hosting events is a new ballgame with entirely new rules.

Living and working during the pandemic has made digital meeting and event tech solutions a necessity, and the hospitality industry continues to make changes that create better ways to conduct events, and business. And along the way come trends in travel, born from lifestyle changes and destined to become part of our norms. Read along as we uncover three group travel behaviors that will change the way hoteliers and organizers will work in 2022.

 

Trend #1: Virtual event aversion – signaling the return of live events

After nearly two years of forced virtual conferences, meetings and get-togethers, people are eager to meet in person as they did pre-pandemic. In Knowland’s 2021 report, “The State of the Meetings Industry,” more than 450 meeting planners specified that for 2022, they expect nearly 80 percent of meetings to take place in-person – with only 8 percent expected to be virtual and 11 percent hybrid.

“We’re seeing that, naturally, planners are much more focused on live events than they were at the beginning of the pandemic, when the live events industry virtually crashed,” said Dan Humby, Groups360’s vice president of sales for the European region. At last month’s 2022 International Confex in the UK, Dan spoke to a group of Europe-based event organizers and meeting planners who confirmed that the desire for more live events is indeed a global phenomenon.

“When the pandemic struck, the sharp increase in demand for quarantine-safe events meant that hundreds of new virtual meeting platforms entered the marketplace,” Dan said. “But now that travel and meeting restrictions are easing up across the globe, organizers are searching for ways to get people back together in person again. It’s hard to mimic the effects of in-person events via their virtual counterparts.”

The hospitality industry’s digital transformation has enabled a faster rebound in revenue for hoteliers, and certainly offers better ways to maximize resources and meet the elevated expectations of modern group travel organizers. But alongside video conference fatigue and the failure to recreate the benefits of live events, the aversion to the virtual event as we have come to know it is undisputed.

 

Trend #2: ‘Revenge’ travel (not as scary as it sounds)

Much like the world’s aversion to virtual events, revenge travel is the result of groups feeling tired of being cooped up at home. Travelers are getting their “revenge,” so to speak, against COVID-19 by taking any chance they can get to leave home and meet in person.

“There’s a rush among consumers to get out and book travel while they can,” said Ryan Morris, Groups360’s vice president of sales for the Americas. “The pandemic’s peaks and valleys have been unpredictable, and people want to spend time together when they can. People are hoping to make up for lost travel time.”

Destination weddings, non-essential business offsites and incentive trips are all back on the books. As groups make a return to in-person meetings (and begin to prioritize travel again), planners will benefit from an online booking platform that makes it easier to source the right hotels for their event.

“People have felt deprived of the world as they know it for over two years. Not only is there a pent-up appetite for travel, but also experiences,” said Dan Humby. “Wise hoteliers can invest in their property’s longevity by devising a plan to invite people back out of their homes and into hotels.”

 

Trend #3: ‘Bleisure’ turns work trips into a mini vacation

Hoteliers have seen a steady increase in the number of event attendees that want to book additional shoulder nights when traveling for business meetings or events. Instead of choosing between work time and vacation time, employees are asking themselves, why not just do both – from a great hotel destination?

Until recently, companies largely restricted employees from the freedom to choose where they work best. But modern workplaces are open to remote work and flexible work from home policies, which benefits hoteliers as they aim to get back to pre-pandemic business.

“If people can work from home, they can work from a hotel,” said Dan Humby. “This means that hoteliers can benefit from highlighting loyalty programs that incentivize event attendees to book additional room nights and specialty experiences.”

This all translates into a greater demand for digital nomads to enhance their hotel stay. Solutions like GroupSync Housing allow hoteliers to avoid the numerous issues caused by book-arounds, which occurs when event attendees source from their own online travel agency (OTA) instead of booking shoulder nights through the hotel’s own platform. Book-arounds mean that guests are inconvenienced from the get-go and may even book at an entirely different hotel altogether. Investing in the right attendee management solution creates ease and better business for both travel organizers and hoteliers.

 

How to navigate industry changes like a pro

Hoteliers and group travel planners can make changes today to better position their business for the new frontier of group travel and events.

Hoteliers:

  • Invest in digital platforms that make it easy for group organizers and attendees to work with you. Help group travel organizers make better informed decisions and include transparent pricing information and availability in your listings so you can attract the right business.
  • It’s time to give the antiquated spreadsheet an upgrade. With better room block management, you can get to know your guests before they arrive and spend less time managing room blocks.

 Planners:

  • Consider using sourcing platforms that value transparency over paid placements. Sourcing is a process that can quickly become overwhelming and takes months when approached with traditional methods. If you’re still searching for destinations on Google, or spamming numerous hotels with your RFP, it’s time to consider an upgrade.
  • Ditch the rooming list once and for all. GroupSync Housing provides travel planners with a real-time view of their reservations and attendee progress, offering a much more streamlined process.
Planner Pain Points: How to save time on group hotel sourcing

Planner Pain Points: How to save time on group hotel sourcing

Are you still searching for destinations and hotels on Google? How many times have you had to send out RFPs just to get an idea of hotel rates? The usual ways of sourcing venues simply cost too much time.

We interviewed meeting planners from corporations and associations across the US to better understand their hotel sourcing journeys and create meaningful solutions for our GroupSync platform.

We built GroupSync with group travel organizers and event planners in mind, giving you transparency and control over your shopping and booking experience. Below we’ll examine two of the most common event planner pain points voiced by your industry peers and the ways GroupSync solves these issues.

Pain Point #1
The inability to easily find suitable destinations and hotels.

“I go to the internet and start searching, looking at different cities and going through their websites, finding out which hotels or conference centers are in that area, researching and going through those websites. I tend to do a lot of my own research.”

– Trade association planner

Solution: Old-school approaches to searching can take up an enormous amount of time that could be better spent on the details of your event, such as crafting intriguing content and unforgettable experiences. Google and other search engines lack the complex data required to effectively book groups for meetings and events.

GroupSync is a completely unbiased platform that aggregates a world of data to show you hotel properties, amenities, estimated future hotel rates, anticipated occupancy levels, available and relevant incentives, local weather, and other market insights you can’t easily access anywhere else.

search-shop-book-marketplace

Search, shop and book on GroupSync Marketplace.

search-shop-book-marketplace

Search, shop and book on GroupSync Marketplace.

GroupSync’s inventory includes more than 200,000 properties across 225 countries and territories around the globe. While our database offers maximum choice, our proprietary algorithms streamline the search to the destinations and hotels that best fit your needs according to your event dates, budget and weighted preferences.

As a result, when you source through GroupSync, you receive targeted destination and hotel results. Group travel organizers and event planners who use GroupSync reduce their sourcing time from an average of 75 days between RFP and award date to 12 days. That’s more than 60 days returned to your calendar to spend on more creative tasks—and with Instant Booking, it’s even faster.

Pain Point #2
You’re required to send an RFP just to learn more about pricing.

“The most important piece of [an RFP] is usually our hotel room rate. I tell brands to not even send proposals if their rate isn’t within $20 of our budget. We can’t negotiate that down. But some still come back $50 to $100 over our room rate—and those we send to the automatic ‘No’ pile.”

– Corporate event planner

“You have to contact the hotel to get pricing information. [Legacy sourcing systems] don’t even give enough pricing info to make a good comparison. Each hotel sets its own pricing, but knowing any kind of price range ahead of time would help.”

– Corporate event planner

Solution: GroupSync helps you find destinations and hotels within your budget before you ever send out a single RFP. One of GroupSync’s defining features is the price predictor tool, powered by an exclusive partnership with STR, the hotel industry’s most trusted data repository.

rates-and-occupancy-graph

GroupSync market estimate.

GroupSync market estimate.

When you evaluate a destination, the GroupSync market estimate displays a range of estimated future hotel rates based on your event dates and hotel star rating — as far as 10 years into the future. This graph helps you visualize the daily price fluctuations so you can see dates near your preferred set, which may be more cost efficient.

GS-occupancy-trends

Historical occupancy trends on GroupSync’s market estimate.

GS-occupancy-trends

Historical occupancy trends on GroupSync’s market estimate.

Beneath the market estimate are historical occupancy trends for transient and group travelers. High group or transient occupancy in a given market during your desired dates means less flexibility in hotel rates. Groups360 gives organizers and event planners insider data earlier in the process to provide unprecedented transparency and clarity for making better, quicker decisions in the sourcing process.

Managing traditional planner headaches becomes easier with access to the right technology and resources. Read more in our Planner Pain Points series to find out how you can simplify your workflow and get back your most valuable asset — time.

The time is now for direct, instant booking for groups

The time is now for direct, instant booking for groups

It’s been hard to watch the hospitality industry suffer through a global pandemic. As a hotelier myself, I’ve seen my friends and associates experience furloughs or become laid off as hotels were forced closed.

But despite the downturn that has affected hospitality for more than two years, the crisis has also accelerated technological innovation and adaption at an unprecedented rate. New technology has enabled us to do more with less – less time, fewer people, less money – and early adopters are already innovating to meet old challenges in new ways. Our industry is poised for ongoing growth as we emerge from the crisis.

In Knowland’s 2021 “State of the Meetings Industry” planner survey, we learn that event planners expect nearly 80 percent of events in 2022 to happen in-person rather than virtually. It’s clear that there is still strong demand for group travel accommodations.

Hoteliers and organizers alike are looking for ways to renew profits, productivity, and overall efficiency in the group events space. So, what’s the secret weapon that will propel us toward the future of the industry?

Instant booking is the future

Kemp Gallineau, CEO, Groups360

The future of booking meetings, events and group stays is instant and online—especially for smaller, less complicated requirements. We ask our hotelier and organizer clients what challenges they foresee in 2022, and the answers are the same on both sides: low bandwidth for team members, reduced response times from hotels working with limited resources, and a lack of transparency or access to specific hotel information such as pricing and availability. Everyone is craving more information and the ability to make faster decisions when booking groups. Instant booking would take this even further.

Hospitality leaders have been trying to solve this forever. At Groups360, we’re proud to have crossed that technological threshold before anyone else. The key? Prioritizing both group organizer and supplier needs in one platform instead of taking a position that favors one side over the other. Our instant booking function on the GroupSync marketplace allows hotels to sell rooms and meeting space without the RFP process—24/7, 365 days a year. It’s the quickest group booking option available today, and a win-win for hoteliers and organizers.

Just as consumers buy on Amazon and book direct for leisure travel, we also must consider how our customers want to consume room nights and space for meetings and events. We have technology that simplifies booking group room blocks and space for less complex meetings, easing the organizer’s workload and freeing up hotel resources. That’s the difference in our approach, which has successfully created technology that helps both sides of the marketplace.

Hotels need better technology

The pandemic and subsequent economic fallout have forced many hoteliers to streamline their operations and become more efficient. As a result, hotels and meeting organizers are increasingly looking to automate manual tasks and improve efficiency. But even before the pandemic, the industry sought ways to better serve organizers and reduce the cost of sales.

Groups360’s online marketplace for groups, GroupSync, makes the process of booking groups more straightforward and transparent for both planners and hotels. In fact, the platform is so valued by our industry that in 2019, we raised $50 million from four of the world’s leading hotel brands – Accor, IHG, Hilton and Marriott – to continue building technology focused on bringing the marketplace together.

Consumers want more control and are eager to take advantage of methods to solve these age-old issues. The hospitality industry would never be accused of being early adopters, but we do need better tech to move forward successfully. As we continue to recover from the pandemic, we can predict that technological adoption will increase as we are forced to change behaviors to confront current challenges.

Technology that serves the meetings industry must instill confidence that the user can trust the transaction outcome. That’s where Groups360 has been spending our time—because we believe this is the industry’s future.

Will all meetings and events be transacted instantly? It’s unlikely. Meetings of any size come with inherent logistical complexities. But can we make the process more efficient? Can we move the sales process further down the line? Absolutely. And we will because that’s what group travel organizers and planners have needed and requested for years.

A way forward

Before co-founding Groups360, I had a long career as a senior executive with Gaylord Entertainment Company, purveyor of some of the US’s largest conference hotels. There, I experienced firsthand the need for innovative new practices that would focus on building transparency and convenience.

As we endeavor to recover, my advice to other hoteliers is to take a more holistic approach to your goals. As you consider the best way to restore your business, you might feel tempted to pick just one side of the equation, focusing only on reducing commissions or generating more leads.

Instead, consider how to enable your hotel salespeople to have better interactions with the people planning meetings or transacting without any manual intervention. Groups360 will equip you with all the data you need to make a good decision. When you’re ready to buy, you will have all the data you need to make a purchase. When you’re ready to sell, you have the necessary information about your customers to personalize your approach and make customers feel special and heard. We are here to help you become highly efficient, drive revenue and create a great environment. Not only to sell the commodities of rooms and space, but the value that hotels provide, and to help meeting planners perform their work more efficiently.

Over a Million Guest Rooms available for Instant Group Booking on GroupSync

Over a Million Guest Rooms available for Instant Group Booking on GroupSync

We’re thrilled to share with you that meeting and event planners can now instantly book group rooms at over 6,500 participating hotel locations worldwide, with approximately 1,020,800 available rooms from brands including Hilton, IHG, and Omni. With a broader selection of properties available, GroupSync Marketplace is becoming the premier location for coordinators and planners to search, shop and book their rooms and meeting space – all from a single online solution.

GroupSync Marketplace is Groups360’s solution for booking meetings and events by providing instant online booking for group rooms and space, a simplified RFP process providing instant access to nearly 200,000 hotels, and housing solutions. GroupSync is the only place where event planners can evaluate real-time inventory availability for guest rooms and event space prior to booking room blocks online or sending an RFP.

“We are reshaping the hospitality industry with GroupSync Marketplace in a way that makes booking groups simple, transparent and efficient for both hotels and event planners,” said Kemp Gallineau, CEO, Groups360. “Planners and hoteliers alike see the value that pricing, inventory availability, and instant booking brings to the booking process.  Given our rapid adoption, we now offer group planners availability and instant booking opportunities for over a million rooms on GroupSync.”

Compared to legacy sourcing systems and methods, planners now have easy access to hotel information enabling them to send more relevant RFPs to criteria-matching venues. With GroupSync, users have a higher acceptance rate and overall, a better booking experience.

Over the next few months, we expect to have approximately 45,000 of the nearly 200,000 RFP-connected properties in GroupSync equipped to be equipped to offer instant online group booking.