Mr. Pesik

Executive Leadership

Attaining Extreme Efficiency in the Group Business

By Greg Pesik, President and CEO, Passkey International

In light of today's economic uncertainty, hotels now more than ever need to make sure that they are operating as efficiently as possible, taking advantage of the latest technologies to get there. The question really boils down to, how can you do more with less, how can you generate more revenue and save costs, even in a downturn?

Driving Reservations Online

The reality is that some attendees are still accustomed to making their hotel reservations the old way - by calling the hotel directly. But recently, we have seen a significant push towards online reservations. That is becoming a mega trend, particularly as more and more Millennials or Generation Y (as they are called) are starting to move into the workforce and apply their habits.. what is ingrained in them.

With this new generation hitting the workforce and with people in general becoming increasingly more comfortable with conducting business online, offering online reservations across the board, from leisure to groups, is emerging as a standard business process and objective. Since everything is shifting in that direction, it only seems natural that group business and reservations should also follow this model.

In order to provide an unforgettable service, a hotel needs to understand and achieve all of the required elements. With the move to online reservations, a hotel can allow its meeting planners to offer a convenient and consistent booking experience for their attendees, which makes the hotel look first-class.

By shifting its group reservations online, a hotel stands to benefit in many ways, both in terms of providing superior service to its meeting planners and attendees, as well as generating incremental revenue and saving costs. Each meeting or event can have its own customized reservation website, including its own logos, text, pictures, etc., so attendees can enjoy the convenience of making their hotel reservations for the event anytime, online. In addition, the hotel can allow its planners to track their events online in real-time and receive automatic email updates. Planners gain many advantages from feeling in control of their event. The most significant being the ability to mitigate attrition costs without constantly calling the hotel for updates and reports.

Saving Reservation Costs

Moving group business online, benefits hotels in two direct and significant ways. First, they can generate considerable incremental revenues from their groups, and second, they can save a great deal in group reservation costs. On average, a phone in reservation can cost a hotel at least $5 - $10 per call, a cost that can be avoided if reservations are driven online. This also frees up hotel employees to focus on more crucial job responsibilities, such as running the hotel more efficiently, or providing superior service levels to guests.

In addition, almost 50% of a hotels' group reservations are delivered via rooming lists, a process that, in the absence of online technology, is rather time consuming, disorganized and prone to errors. How much time does hotel employee waste going back and forth with a planner on a room list before an event even takes place? Not to mention, credit card information is often insecure when methods such as email attachments are used.

Having an advanced tool where planners can drop-off their room lists online in a PCI secure environment and where hotels can process room lists automatically is crucial to event success. It is essential not only to the protection of valuable guest data but also making the process more transparent and efficient for both the planner and the hotel.

By automating the room list process, a hotel saves time, eliminates errors and reduces the risks and costs associated with manually handling room lists. Furthermore, utilizing an advanced room list technology allows a meeting planner to upload their rooming list to a secure web location that protects their attendee data. This is a comforting feeling, not having to sacrifice guest data by emailing the room list (insecure) or faxing it (inefficient and insecure) to the hotel. Plus, once a room list has been uploaded, hotels and planners can easily modify their room lists online or via a revised room list, eliminating the hassles of back-and-forth last minute changes.

Generating Incremental Group Revenue

Marketing a hotel to groups can be a very inefficient and expensive process. The first problem is: How do I target my group attendees? Then, how do I craft a message that I can get to them efficiently as well as generate real incremental revenue for my hotel? Indeed, there are many opportunities to generate sizeable incremental revenues from groups, including: Extended stays, room upgrades, marketing for hotel restaurants and spas as well as the promotion of hotel amenities and destination attractions to group attendees. Yet, there are no efficient methods to turn all these opportunities into real revenue.

What if there was an easier way for a hotel to send quick, targeted and consistent messaging to their group guests? Messaging that can generate real incremental revenues?

Using group-targeted HTML email communications is another technology that is generating significant incremental revenue for hotels. Whether it is a pre-arrival welcome message, an upgrade offer or a spa promotion, using email campaigns that are targeted at specific groups is a great way to showcase a hotel and generate considerable incremental revenues from groups. These HTML campaigns can be created in a flash without having to spend a dime on marketing firms. Best of all, it is done within the online group environment without the need for additional tools or expertise.

As more and more planners become exposed to different group tools from different vendors and at different hotels, they are increasingly demanding a standard set of tools that they can use across all hotels, flags and venues. It is the same type of dynamic that created a standard operating system (Windows) for all PCs. Remember when every PC maker had their own operating system (Wang, Digital, IBM, etc.)? Well that all ended when users began demanding standardizations as they move from PC to PC. They did not want to continuously learn and adapt to a new system. Windows became that standard, and as they say, the rest is history.

So, for hotels, it is critical to understand and be aware of what planners are thinking of and asking for. With so many options available, planners are coming to expect top rate service that embodies the entire group experience.

While groups will always play a critical role in a hotel profitability and revenue mix, hotels need to continuously upgrade their capabilities in order to remain market competitive in the group space, and to attract more planners to their property. And one thing we know planners are increasingly demanding is a professional and consistent group reservation and management process.

What hotels must do is provide a tool that planners are familiar with and can easily use. Let planners offer their attendees a seamless booking experience that is quick and easy from start to finish. This will only contribute to building a better reputation for the hotel in the group space.

The bottom line is a hotel has a great deal to benefit from deploying advanced technologies that shift its group business online. And, they have nothing to lose. These technologies are offered today to hotels in such a way that their ROI is almost guaranteed. While a guaranteed ROI may seem too good to be true, particularly in these tough economic times, in this case, too good is simply true.

Greg Pesik is President and CEO of Passkey. He served as SVP of Transport, Travel, and Hospitality at Talus Solutions. Where he helped position the company as a leader in profit growth technologies. Greg has overseen a portfolio of hotels, passenger airlines, cruise lines, cargo, ocean shipping, rail, trucking, and rental cars. He was VP and Director of Business Development at Aeronomics, held lead positions for Andersen Consulting and KPMG Peat Marwick. Greg holds an MBA from the Johnson School at Cornell and a BS from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. Mr. Pesik can be contacted at 617-237-8200 or gpesik@passkey.com Extended Bio...

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