Don't Give Up on Group Business

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News and numbers indicate we may be nearing the end of this deep downturn, or at least finally scraping bottom, but consensus from Smith Travel Research and others is recovery will take some time. The worst thing you can do is sit back and wait for things to get better.

Now is the time to be even more proactive in your marketing and sales efforts. In response to the last LH eReport on rate cutting, we received some spirited feedback. Instead of focusing on hotel booking companies, said one director of sales, concentrate on group bookings. “Maximize your city's potential,” he said, “to attract groups so you can INCREASE rates, not decrease them.”

Group business is hurting more than most: PricewaterhouseCoopers says group travel accounts for 70 percent of the 11-percent decline in occupancy across the board. But that doesn't mean you can give up on this segment, it means you may have to work harder and in different places to find the right groups.

The GM of the Arizona Biltmore, a resort that could be the poster child for the AIG effect, recently told me his property is surviving by recruiting local groups and associations instead of the usual clientele, financial companies. The payoff may not be as rich or as soon with associations booking years in advance, but it's better than sitting back and hoping AIG comes calling.

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