It seems that the age-old practice of creating familiarization trips to check-out hotels and facilities is another victim of the economy. This economy has caused many planners to research travel information via the Web to help ease their shrinking travel budgets. Apparently meeting planners rely on guest comments, too.
Just recently, I heard from several meeting planners who read my articles stressing the importance of TripAdvisor and its benefits for hotels. Their comments were focused on how much they rely upon TripAdvisor with its former-guest postings to select hotels for planned events. Several stated that former-guest postings are the first criteria in their selection process. This is significant.
They also commented that the Internet has saved them a remarkable amount of time and they now use the Internet to choose a destination before scheduling a familiarization trip. So whether or not some meeting planners still use fam trips, many use travel social media (TripAdvisor) at some time in their selection process. Yet, it amazes me how few hotels pay little more than cursory attention to their hotel’s TripAdvisor comments; good or bad.
Their logical next step is to thoroughly review the hotel’s website. For years, I have been recommending a strong focus on destination and location information for hotel websites and I still find many hotel sites which are nothing more than online brochures; most, if not all, the site’s information is about the hotel alone.
Think Like a Meeting Planner For those lucky hotels which cater, at least in part, to group meetings and conferences, use your knowledge of what meeting planners look for when selecting a hotel. This is the primary reason why you should be sure your site’s developer has had hands-on hotel marketing experience. It’s also a good idea to have a Request for Proposal (RFP) form on your site.
Basically, meeting planners want all the same things as individual guests plus a little more. There are three things that are important to any hotel; location, facilities, and entertainment. For planners, they also want to know the answer to "what do my people do when they are not in a scheduled function?" Your hotel website needs to highlight details of all three factors, but location and entertainment are especially important to meeting planners.
How far is your hotel from public or private transportation? For larger groups, is there a cluster of hotels to handle a large number of people? What entertainment venues are within easy transportation range? Is there a convention center for large group functions and other forms of entertainment? Is your hotel near sports event venues? Remember that your hotel’s location is more than simply listing its address.
Meeting Planners also Look for a Little More Websites, for meeting capable hotels, should also demonstrate a sense of competent management and staff, and service-reliability. I could not stress enough the importance of well conceived and well written text on your website. Properly written sales text is the most important part of your site. Your site should develop a sense of reliability with group planners.
The Art of the Deal Just as with transient travelers, meeting planners buy value not just rates. Make sure that the text on your site presents your hotel’s willingness to create and offer individualized programs and specialized service for groups. Standard quotations for rates and amenities are no longer sufficient to capture group business in this economy. I’m not sure it ever was.
The Bottom-Line With a small investment of time and interest to monitor TripAdvisor and other travel social media, you will boost your hotel’s popularity and image among transient and group travelers. If you haven’t done so already, it’s a great idea to place the TripAdvisor Widget directly on your website. There is no need to have visitors leave your site to review your hotel’s guest comments.
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