Group Bookings: How Should Hoteliers Prepare For Group Bookings?

Whether it’s a celebration weekend, a corporate or sporting event, group bookings equate to a large amount of a hotel’s annual revenue, so it’s important to get them right. Jonathan Smith, general manager from Holiday Inn Express, Oxford Road, Manchester, shares his top tips and advice on how best to prepare for bookings of 10 rooms or more.

1. Stick to the rules and be strict with your policy

Ensure you have set timings, rates and terms and conditions in place and most importantly, make sure you stick to them, as deviating from your policy could expose you to a string of problems. For example, if your payment terms state that the account balance is payable 28 days prior to the date of arrival and a payment has not been paid in full by the due date, you are well within your rights to treat the booking as a cancellation and enforce a cancellation and/or late payment charge.

2. Make sure there is a group contract in place

As such, it is very important to have some form of contract or written statement in place. This should include the terms and conditions of the agreement and is essential if a dispute between the parties occurs.

3. Liaise with the group leader

For many group bookings, there is normally one person who is the nominated ‘group leader’ who places the reservation and completes the booking form. Ensure that the contract has been signed and returned by the group leader and create a timetable so they are aware of their room allocations and arrival and departure times, prior to check in. This will help to make sure a group’s stay runs smoothly from the minute they arrive to the moment they leave, which means they are more likely to enjoy their stay.

4. Prepare for arrival

I’ve always been told that the three most important things to remember when running a hotel are: preparation, preparation and preparation. If you’re not prepared, check-ins can be a logistical nightmare. Wherever possible, try and allow guests to pre-check in so all they need to do upon arrival is collect their key and go up to their room. Be savvy in your planning – if you know that you have four coach loads of French football fans arriving at peak time, it would probably be a good idea to hire a French translator and assign rooms to coaches.

5. Maintain regular communication with staff

Frequent and consistent communication between all hotel departments is critical. Operations, for instance, must communicate with the front desk each day regarding the number of rooms that have been booked, and inform staff of their check-in and payment details. The front desk must then communicate with concierge and housekeeping to let them know when guests check in and out. Similarly, the F&B department needs to be informed about the number of covers and the time guests wish to dine. Management for all front-of-house departments must stress regular communication to ensure a smooth-running operation.

6. Maintain regular communication with guests

It is important to keep in touch with your guests and maintain a high-speed response rate before, during and after their stay, as this shows you care and demonstrates a high level of customer service. Also, regular contact with your clients keeps you organised and, as a result, you’re probably less likely to encounter any problems.

After their departure you should remind your guests of all the great reasons why they should come back, so to ensure your communication stands out, make sure that all correspondence is accurate, professional and personalised.

7. Remain consistent with your messaging

It’s important that messaging remains consistent throughout the hotel, as this builds client trust and credibility. If one staff member says one thing and another says the opposite, this inconsistent, mixed messaging does not reflect well on the hotel. For example, if a group reduces their booking by two rooms at the last minute, and they are trying to waiver their cancellation fees, no matter who they speak to, all management staff should provide the same feedback.

By Jonathan Smith

About Jonathan Smith: Jonathan Smith is the general manager at the Holiday Inn Express, Oxford Road, Manchester. He opened the hotel on 23 August 2010 and now employs 32 staff and saw 58,844 visitors through the doors during the first year. He previously held GM positions at Holiday Inn Express Hotels in Lichfield, Bradford and Manchester East.
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