Three top tips for boutique hotels to capitalise on MICE business upon reopening

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Graham Pope, head of European sales for Cvent Hospitality Cloud, outlines three key areas that boutique hotels should consider for attracting MICE business upon reopening.

As lockdowns begin to ease and hotels across Europe begin to reopen, the race is on to fill rooms and book MICE business in order to offset revenue losses accrued during the shutdown. While many of the global hotel chains have ample resources to leverage to help get their hotels back on track, including WSOs, large marketing budgets, and more staff, smaller, boutique hotels are more likely to get left behind.   

Prior to the global pandemic, hotel business was booming. In particular, boutique hotels were busy attracting the small to mid-size MICE groups looking for the added personal touch and unique experience that many boutique hotels specialise in. Because business was good, there was no sense of urgency to find ways to finetune the marketing strategy, automate the booking process, or streamline MICE efforts at large. Bringing on technology to support sales and marketing efforts, which yes, comes with an up-front cost, just wasn’t a necessity and hotels with smaller budgets were understandably hesitant to invest. 

But now, as the pandemic has bottomed out and the hotel and travel industries are on the upswing, it’s time to rethink how to manage and attract business.

Data from the Cvent Supplier Network shows that many planners across the globe are now sourcing venues in the last quarter of 2020 and first quarter of 2021. However, due to current travel restrictions, everything is being managed online - a trend that is expected to continue post COVID-19 as a result of reduced budgets and the need for planners to be more efficient. So, for hotels looking to capitalise and improve their chances of new bookings, it’s crucial to embrace and use technology in the right way.   

Sales and marketing 

In the recovery phase, budgets across the board are going to be more scrutinised than ever. Every penny spent will need to go twice as far. One way to ensure proper budget allocation is to refine your marketing budget. Allocate funds to where you’ll get the most bang for your buck – i.e. make sure to get in front of your target audience and be where the event organisers are sourcing. Analyse the digital marketing spend and perhaps reallocate some of it from areas that are traditionally high-cost (SEO, for example) and put it towards boosting your profile or publishing ads on online sourcing platforms. 

Capitalise on your hotel’s point of difference and how you’re helping to keep your guests safe. Highlight what your teams are doing to clean and sanitise the property. How are you catering to the unique needs of MICE guests? By addressing these topics, you’re more likely to stand out. Very few site visits are happening in person (repurpose those funds that were typically saved for flashy site visits) and international (and even domestic) travel are still far below average, so event organisers are sourcing for their events online. It’s critical that hotels maximise their digital and online presence in order to attract more MICE business.  

Automation 

When hotels open their doors, most are operating with a skeleton staff. Some may have returned from furlough, but many properties eliminated positions for good. So, productivity and efficiency are key. Everyone needs to do more with less. Technology can help here too. If you’ve already taken steps to expand your digital presence and increase your exposure on top venue sourcing platforms, now is the time to set up your RFP response plan. By leveraging hotel sales and marketing tools that streamline the RFP response process, your team will be able to respond to more qualified incoming leads in less time.

Studies have shown that if hotels are able to be one of the first three properties to respond to an RFP, they’re more likely to win the business. When the response rate drops, or answers are incomplete, it adversely impacts any potential sales wins. Boutique hotels also shouldn’t automatically turn down requests that are too large for their properties. There may be an opportunity to split the group between a nearby hotel of similar calibre. Creativity is key so that no potential business is lost.

 Lead scoring tools can automatically rate and score incoming leads so that teams don’t waste valuable time on the less impactful opportunities. Smart business intelligence and automation tools will not only make your life easier but will help to grow and scale your business at a much faster rate post-pandemic.  

Hybrid events 

The future is hybrid events – or events that blend elements of both the in-person and virtual experience into one event. As these kinds of events come about in the future, it will be important for venues to have the technology capabilities and infrastructure in place to support them. For example, having accurate floor planning, seating, and diagramming tools is critical to effectively support social distancing guidelines. When event organisers are sourcing for their venues, they want to know how each room will look and feel when taking these guidelines into consideration. Hiring AV companies to do this type of diagramming can be expensive, so leverage online seating and diagramming technology. Some can even support real-time editing and collaboration between the hotel and the event organiser – reducing friction and streamlining communication. 

Another thing to keep in mind? Providing free Wi-Fi is not enough anymore. Venues need to be equipped with enough bandwidth and speed to cater to a large number of in-person attendees and those attending virtually. Hotels able to successfully cater to the unique needs of hybrid events, and effectively market their ability to do so, will rise above the rest.

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