What is a meeting booking engine?
A booking engine is software that allows
people visiting a hotel’s website to book rooms online without having to
contact the hotel over the phone. Regular booking engines enable users to book
bedrooms or guest rooms as they are more commonly known in hotelier speak. So,
a meeting booking engine allows the visitor to book meetings online on the
hotel’s website. These are more powerful engines that encompass rooms, meeting
space, Food & Beverage, Audio Visual and other add-ons that are required
for a successful meeting.
Who uses meeting booking engine?
Large chains like Hilton and Marriott
recognized some time ago that there is a demand for booking meetings online,
especially the smaller meetings, and have implement these engines on their
website. Other large chains and even smaller chains are either looking into it
or are in some stage of implementation.
Why do we need a meeting booking engine?
Hotel Group Sales Challenges
The current state of the meeting industry
has created specific challenges to the hotel group sales teams that can be
solved to a certain extent using a meeting booking engine. The following
infographic depicts the problems and the impacts of those problems to hotel
group sales teams.
proliferation of Requests for Proposal
A survey by Meeting Professionals
International, the largest meeting and event industry association worldwide,
found that RFPs had increased 300% over the previous 5 years. Does this mean
there are 3 times as many meetings? Not really, it just means that meeting organizers
are choosing to get more proposals for their events, enabled in part by the
advent of websites that send RFPs to multiple venues and help compare results.
While more proposals help organizers make
better decisions, it also means that hotel sales teams are sending out a lot
more proposals with a lot less chance of winning the bid. In fact, industry
figures estimate that the current probability of a proposal converting to
actual business is less 5%. Put another way, for every 20 proposals sent out,
hotels are happy to even convert one group.
Quality and Time Spent on Proposals
A typical proposal takes about 30 minutes
to complete. Larger more complicated
requests need internal meeting and decisions making and take hours and days to
complete, and the sales manager at the hotel is hard pressed for time. As sales
people are forced to send more and more proposal, the quality of those
proposals have to suffer, and they tend to send more boilerplate proposals in
response to RFPs. This means not personalizing the response to the industry or
specific customers which reduces conversion. But even worse is when specific
questions from organizers are not answered in a rush to send more proposals.
This further aggravates the problem of low conversion by reducing the
conversion ratio further.
The heavy demand on hotel sales managers
also means that some of the proposals end up being delayed or sometimes missed
when an RFP has a set due date and time. A Harvard Business Review study found
that when customers are 7X more likely to convert when contacted within the
first hour of the request. The delayed response reduces conversion even more.
Spent on Small Meetings
Industry data indicates that close 80% of
the meeting are what are considered smaller meetings that produce a lot less
revenue for the hotel. While RFPs for these smaller meetings are easier to
respond to and takes lesser time, the competition is still stiff and not
sending a good proposal reduces conversion. This leads to sales managers
spending a lot of time on small meetings that probably follow the 80-20 rule
and only produce about 20% of meeting revenue for a hotel, thus spending less
time on larger revenue business.
Result – Sales Teams that don’t have time to sell
Given all the statistics in the above
paragraphs, it’s evident that sales teams have quite a load just responding to
incoming proposals that have a low conversion rate and a lot of the time is
spent on small meetings that are not high revenue generators. The result is
that sales teams spend very little to no time on actual proactive selling that
can land hotels large and lucrative clients. In fact, another survey found that
hotels sales managers only spend 15% of their time on proactive sales. I’ll let
that sink in. Only 15% on proactive sales. Essentially they are doing paperwork
85% of the time.
The Solution – Online Meeting Booking
One obvious solution to the overload is to
introduce the ability for customers, especially the ones looking for smaller
meetings (remember the 80%?) to booking their meetings online. This brings up
many questions around user acceptance and feasibility of meeting booking
engines in the minds of many hoteliers we met. Again, we look at data to answer
Industry surveys show that 39% of meetings
have a lead time of less than 4 weeks. The lesser period of time available to
plan the meetings makes it imperative for meeting planners to get quick
responses in order to meet their timelines. In fact, an overwhelming 83%
thought hotels were too slow and wanted a faster response.
A large number of meeting planners already
user e-RFPs and other booking tools for online meetings and are familiar with
the online format. 80% of the organizers surveyed said they will be willing to
book meetings online if it facilitated their need for a faster response.
It’s evident from data that meeting
organizers are not only willing to accept online booking, but demand a faster
response, whether online or not. Further, there were about 25% of the
respondents who said they don’t consider hotels for small meetings if they
don’t have an online solution.
Another concern for hoteliers we hear often
is that meetings have many customizations and building such an engine will be
too complex and unusable. To this objection, we call to your attention portals
like Instagathering.com, facilemeeting.com, and meetingbooker.com that have
enabled bookings worth several million dollars from organizers in spite of the
relatively low investment that has gone into these portals. It’s only a matter
of time before a large percentage of meetings are booked online and it’s
imperative that hotels implement a meeting booking engine so they are not too
late to the game and are ready to take online meeting bookings when they do
become the norm.
Insta Event Management Booking Engine
Insta Event Management has such a booking engine,
whose feasibility is proven by many bookings online from its owned portals of
Instagathering.com and FacileMeeting.com. To get more information or to book a
demo, please click here.