Planner Stories: Simplifying Group Hotel Booking for Conferences

by | Jul 19, 2022 | Planners

As CEO & founder of the Academic Orthopaedic Consortium, a company that organizes university-based musculoskeletal enterprises across the United States, Michael Gagnon was looking for a better way to lock in superior hotel destinations and negotiated rates for his annual meeting. Running a company with a rapidly expanding membership base left him with little time to identify and negotiate with hotels each year.

In my five years managing accounts for part-time planner customers, I’ve found that this is a common scenario. Not all event planners intentionally landed in their role. Often, they’ve taken on the task to support an overloaded team. Or maybe planning was one of their duties while the company was still small, but now that it’s grown, they’re being pulled in too many directions.

There’s no dispute, even part-time event planning can be a complex and busy job that requires your time, often it’s a lot of time. Not only are you fielding multiple websites and sources of hotel information to find and narrow down your shortlist, just to get to the point of submitting a variety of hotel RFPs and negotiating hotel rates.

Fortunately, a colleague referred Michael to our hotel booking solution for groups, GroupSync.

“For people who plan large meetings,” Michael said, “there’s nothing they can do on their own that could ever remotely approach what GroupSync can do. In the past, I personally had to handle it all, from identifying suitable hotels to negotiating with those hotels for everything from room rates to the price of bagels. It was exhausting, highly inefficient, and ultimately not cost-effective.”

 

GroupSync: A crystal ball with better data

After a huge drop in hotel/motel market size in 2020—from $210.74 billion in 2019 to $93.07 billion in 2020—the industry is recovering. Conference organizers like Michael are glad to again gather with their community in person, and I find it rewarding to witness planners getting the best deals out there using GroupSync. After all, thanks to our partnership with Smith Travel Research, a hotel industry data pipeline, GroupSync is a sourcing solution with the latest market data.

GroupSync employs that data to forecast rates, know market occupancy, and more. In the past, data like this wasn’t planner-facing to help educate buyers while they’re shopping to know if they could, for example, afford the market on their preferred dates or have the potential to negotiate for better concessions.

I like to think of this GroupSync-educated buyer as having a crystal ball empowering them to make better business decisions. The software shows you exactly what you want, asked and answered, with no day-of surprises.

 

“For people who plan large meetings, there’s nothing they can do on their own that could ever remotely approach what GroupSync can do.”

It’s time to reconsider your event planning tools

A Splash research report found the majority of companies haven’t changed their pre-pandemic event marketing tools. Yet the landscape is different now, and with event costs rising, a reevaluation of tools that worked before is necessary.

Online comparison shopping is what we’ve created for the meetings industry. If you’re shopping online for a car or a house, you’d educate yourself on market rates, reviews, extra features, and more. This is what GroupSync is for meeting planners and hotels—it’s the one place they can gather all their information so that by the time they need to book their hotel, they can make a quick decision armed with all data.

 

Easing your group hotel booking pain points

GroupSync was built by veteran hoteliers with decades of experience in hotel sales, group travel and event planning. Our solution—specifically created to meet the unique needs of part-time planners and seasoned event organizers—addresses hotel booking pain points and brings innovations to the industry that no other solution has.

Michael and other meeting planners I speak with say they find that GroupSync alleviates so many of their pain points, including:

1. Uncertainty about getting the best deal
2. Lack of confidence while negotiating hotel rates
3. Have specific criteria for a venue but overwhelmed by options
4. Can’t or don’t want to spend a lot of money on an event planner
5. Need to get things done quickly (like yesterday)

Let’s take a look at how GroupSync addresses each of the above frustrations.

 

1. Uncertainty about getting the best deal

To me, the winning piece of our tech’s value is just how much data we have access to. It looks beyond a specific date’s room rates to help you forecast a budget and know where a hotel’s data falls within the market.

Because GroupSync pulls together the most important data in one place, planners are set up for deal success.

2. Lack of confidence while negotiating hotel rates

Clients have free, direct GroupSync access without needing to rely on us as an intermediary. We turn over all available search results—no information withheld, no paid placements or ad redirection—to our users so they can negotiate from a more informed, empowered position.

In Michael’s case, he coupled his negotiation skills with all the supporting data he could ever want to plan the exact right event for his organization.

3. Have specific criteria for a venue but overwhelmed by options

GroupSync Marketplace shows you hotels that are scored based on how well they meet your criteria. That includes budget, airport proximity, weather, group size, meeting space, and more.

Planners can get as specific as they need to: For Michael, that included a centrally located U.S. city with open water access that’s within 30 minutes of an airport with a lot of direct flights. He also wanted a $269 or lower room rate and access to a meeting space with a specified square footage baseline.

4. Can’t or don’t want to spend a lot of money on an event planner

A limited budget means outsourcing your hotel sourcing isn’t an option for you. Already stretched, you also don’t have time to account for the learning curve of a complicated hotel booking solution for your group.

GroupSync’s intuitive interface makes it easy to search, compare destinations and properties, submit proposals, and book hotels, thus eliminating the need for outsourcing your hotel booking. Necessary details—the only ones you care about—are broken down for you to easily review and make decisions.

“The way the platform is laid out visually makes complete sense,” Michael said. “The information that’s included for properties and destinations, the rates, the details—it’s all very easy to navigate.”

5. Need to get things done quickly (like yesterday)

On average, traditional hotel sourcing—from the start of a search to closing the RFP—takes planners 75 days.

With GroupSync, the average sourcing time is only 12 days. That’s an average savings of more than 60 days (two months!) of time spent sourcing. And because our solution is directly integrated with the world’s leading hotel brands, response times can be as low as 24-48 hours. (I once sourced hotels in Ireland for a program. Because of the time difference, I sent RFPs to 10 properties before going to bed—and woke to seven responses the next morning.)

And when planners choose Instant Booking for their smaller events, there’s even less time spent since the transaction is—you guessed it—instant.

 

“The time savings and the financial savings are game-changing..I would never go back to doing this on my own.”

Find the right hotel fit with GroupSync

Time is money, and that’s why planners switch to GroupSync. They value their time, and efficiency is crucial. Efficient teams save a ton of money. Think about how much you pay someone for two months of work, even at an hourly rate. Using GroupSync, Michael found an exact fit for his needs without signing a paycheck. It’s worth emphasizing one more time: GroupSync saves the monetary investment of two months.

The biggest testimonial is Michael’s continued use of GroupSync. Since planning his symposium in Austin, he’s used GroupSync to book another room block with meeting space in Philadelphia, and a board of directors retreat in the Cayman Islands. That’s three meetings, sourced and booked, since his initial outreach.

“I would not only recommend, but urge, every group that schedules meetings to stop doing this on your own and to instead try GroupSync for at least one meeting. The time savings and the financial savings are game-changing. You get these reports that are delivered straight to your desktop, containing all of the essentials and rates and locations that are far better than anything you could achieve on your own. I would never go back to doing this on my own.” said Michael.

Want to learn more? Connect with us today and see how GroupSync makes hotel booking for groups a faster and simpler process.