Excerpted from the HSMAI and Cvent White Paper: Room Blocks in Real Time
For hotels, group bookings have always been a cumbersome, time-consuming task. They’ve also been a bit of a guessing game. Before online software solutions became available, it wasn’t unusual to track them manually using Microsoft Excel. Maybe that doesn’t sound too bad, but a given event could involve four separate rooming lists with 15 sub-blocks and 450 special requests, and while spreadsheets are great, they tend to be closed systems that don’t update or repopulate information automatically.
Kaaren Hamilton, CMP, CMM, HMCC, vice president of global sales for RLH Corporation and a member of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board, remembers that years ago, just to get a sense of a group’s history, “the fax machine would be running all day long, with forms that we had sent to other hotels asking them to fill out and send back to us.” It was a risk on multiple fronts — other hotels might not respond or have relevant group history; the planner might be new and uninformed. “That was sort of the only real analytics that you had then, anecdotal evidence,” Hamilton said. “Sometimes it worked out, and sometimes it was disastrous.”
Today, software solutions can securely store and analyze a group’s history, as well as show how a current room block is progressing in real time. But “the huge advantage [with a software solution] is the connectivity to the registration tools,” Hamilton said, “so you know the room block is then being fulfilled in real time. As soon as there is a person to occupy that room, and they’ve registered for the event, that room is taken out of inventory, so to speak. So that is very valuable if you think about that from an accuracy and a time-saving [perspective], and it really helps you understand what the pace of the pickup is.”
Not to mention the decrease in manual workload. The average traditional rooming list is revised seven to nine times, according to Cvent. With that comes unavoidable human error — the wrong room type is booked, guest names are misspelled, dates are entered incorrectly. Software solutions allow the hotel to upload a rooming list directly into their property management system (PMS), saving the hotel staff from manually entering each reservation and allowing the hotel to make changes when necessary.
Besides a more streamlined group-booking process, software solutions offer better insight into rooming trends — especially for meeting planners. The JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix, Arizona, uses its platform to create a personalized website for each of its group clients. “It’s a great advantage to our customers, because they can get direct access to the platform,” said Lorena Aguilera, the JW Marriot Phoenix’s group housing manager. “They can go in and check on the pickup reports, or any other reports they need in order to compare with the registration. They’re able to see any changes that have been made a second ago. The greatest advantage is for the meeting planner to be able to see information in real time without even having to email or call us.”
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