COVID-19 hit many business sectors hard, but the posterchild for the economic harm was travel and hospitality. The hotel industry was particularly effective at symbolizing the impact. Empty rooms across the country stood as metaphors not just for lost revenue, but for a world where nobody was out enjoying life. Of course, as the vaccine gets more widely rolled out globally, we’re seeing the return of leisure travel, particularly affluent consumers staying at high-end hotels and resorts. But getting travelers back was always going to be the easier part of the recovery plan. It’s the B2B side of the hotel industry—meetings and events—that remains the biggest hurdle to a full recovery for the sector.
This is significant, as revenue from group events and business travel can amount to a sizeable chunk of hotel revenue—in many cases more than half the income—even though B2B doesn’t get the slick marketing push that B2C hospitality does.
For B2C, an advertising campaign, a list of amenities, and an easy online booking experience gives you what you need to sell. For the much bigger and more complex B2B event sale, you must somehow sell a space, a hotel, a neighborhood, even an entire city, plus all the supplementary services, such as food and beverage and event technology. And not being able to show off the space in person…it’s a hard sell. You can’t just do it over Zoom, which saved many businesses, schools, media, and entertainers over the course of the pandemic as they continued interacting and engaging with their audiences.
But there are ways to do it. Here are two examples that illustrate how digital solutions can be used to address specific needs in the B2B meetings and events business.
As meetings and larger events start to return, event planners have increased their interest in available outdoor function space. Which of your properties have that? If you’re a seller with a large portfolio of properties that runs into the hundreds or thousands, efficiently obtaining this information and being able to present it in a compelling way will be a critical success factor.
By leveraging the right internal data sources, a digital solution could make it easy for sellers to quickly search and filter specific features for their properties that align with a planner’s criteria. In this example, it might be outdoor event space details, but it could easily extend beyond that into other important customer needs, such as hotel proximity to airlift, renovation information, or even concierge recommendations for local attractions.
Even before issues with COVID-19, many sellers often ran into the challenge that they can only show off their property effectively…on their property. Providing the planner with the ability to experience your event space—without physically being there—could be the difference between business being won and lost. The use of virtual tour content has really improved in recent years and we’re seeing this technology being used in other industries like residential real estate also. Previously it used to be a rendering of individual rooms, but now we’ve gotten to the point where all the rooms on a floor can be connected into one seamless tour.
So, in the context of a corporate event, a planner could experience the flow and surroundings of what it would be like for an event attendee to walk into a hotel lobby and their journey through to the grand ballroom without actually being there in-person. Creating a digital solution that can utilize and showcase immersive content like that in conjunction with other useful digital assets can be a powerful sales tool.
Ultimately, the better hotels are able to present their properties digitally, the easier it will be to sell them to anybody, anywhere. And not just in extreme times like today, but anytime.
At Maark, we’re doing this type of work with Marriott right now. Check out our case study, which highlights how digital solutions can help create and deliver compelling content for customers.