How hoteliers balance group, leisure needs on property
How hoteliers balance group, leisure needs on property
17 JUNE 2019 8:40 AM

When trying to accommodate both group business and leisure travelers, hoteliers should perform a cost analysis, offer alternatives and provide extra benefits to leisure guests if public spaces will be occupied by groups.

REPORT FROM THE U.S.–Operating a successful hotel these days is almost a constant balancing act. Hoteliers juggle the wants of all of their different types of guests with the need to make money and turn a profit.

Sometimes that juggling act can be particularly delicate when there’s group business and leisure or individual business guests bumping heads, such as when a group using the pool and paying for that space for a reception and the vacationers at the hotel want to swim.

“You delicately balance this with the goal to minimize inconvenience for the leisure/business traveler, while still providing a unique and profitable experience for the group,” said Clifford Ferrara, SVP of sales and revenue generation at Chesapeake’s Hospitality.

Start with a cost benefit analysis, he said. A thorough review of expected revenue without the group versus with them using the space is vitally important. Alternatives should be explored by the hotel first by getting very creative with any other space they have. If the group really wants the pool or rooftop, then the revenue profits and minimum expected inconvenience for other guest need to justify the decision.

Many factors then enter into the final decision, he said. Hoteliers should consider the number of group attendees, the makeup of the group, the type of event, the tie of the event, any excessive noise potential and the number of leisure/business travelers in house likely to be displaced from access.

Notify guests in advance of any said event, especially at check-in, so that guests could make their plans around it, Ferrara said.

Guest expectations for understanding upfront anything that could alter their onsite or service experiences is paramount. Frequent travelers and loyalty program guests assume that hoteliers know why they travel and stay at a particular location or brand, said Bill Caswell, principal and hospitality practice leader with North Highland, a global management consulting firm that provides services in various industries, including hospitality. They expect hoteliers to know, based on previous patterns, whether closure of a service or experience impacts their needs—and they expect to be informed.

For example, perhaps a loyalty customer who frequents a property for business regularly has no need for pool access and is not impacted by such use—versus a transient guest who might be counting on pool time as part of the vacation experience.

“The rise of hyper-personalization has increased the expectation from frequent travelers, loyalty guests and meeting attendees that you will predict their needs and inform them as required,” Caswell said. “Failure to do this does not just impact a meeting or vacation experience, but could lead to a customer lost for a lifetime.”

Being proactive with surprise offerings to the possible displaced ones would be key to keeping guests happy, Ferrara said.

“Have a conversation at check-in, and assign a front office manager or concierge to be communicative and have a toolbox of offerings that might appease anyone that would perceive this as an inconvenience,” he said.

This could include providing displaced guests drink tickets or discounts on food-and-beverage items, Ferrara added. Encourage guests to use on site outlets, venues, spa or room service that captures them on property and builds revenue.

Three of Hilton's hotels in the greater San Diego area will work together to accommodate all guests. For instance, if a pool is sold to a group at one property, other non-group guests could receive a pool pass and complimentary transportation to a sister hotel, said Mario Thompson, area director of sales and marketing for the 1,190-room Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel, the 300-room Doubletree by Hilton Mission Valley Hotel and the 394-room Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines Hotel. Or, staff could guide guests to try outdoor activities at the nearby beach.

“We will provide a variety of solutions to keep everyone happy,” he said.

Since having space to network is such a big part of meetings business, the Hilton properties will even rent extra furniture to accommodate groups for their networking needs and not have them take over all of the public spaces within a property, Thompson said.

When the 217-room Kimpton Tryon Park in Charlotte, North Carolina, has had to shut down an amenity, the property offered alternative options, said Giovanna Slaughter, director of sales and marketing.

For example, if the rooftop bar and lounge is closed for a private event, guests can drink and dine in Angeline’s, the hotel's' Italian restaurant. The hotel also has moved its complimentary coffee and tea service and wine hour to other locations in the hotel to ensure that guests can still partake in these amenities, while its normal location may be in use by a group, she added.

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