Kemp Gallineau, president and CEO of Groups360, talks about why hoteliers need tools to simplify and automate their processes, now more than ever.
TD: How is the GroupSync platform helping hoteliers maximise revenue from their meetings, events and group business?
KG: Groups360’s number one priority is to bring transparency, simplicity, and objectivity to group bookings for both hoteliers and meeting planners. We’ve spent seven years building solutions for both suppliers and planners to fulfil this goal, and that’s where we have been directing our energy during the pandemic while business was down. GroupSync is a comprehensive software-as-service platform that enables suppliers to distribute inventory, engage with planners, and optimise group revenue.
Now more than ever, hoteliers need tools to simplify and automate their processes. Many properties are still operating with fewer staff members, so they need ways to do more with less. That’s why GroupSync is an immensely valuable resource in times like these, as well as moving forward.
GroupSync’s streamlined RFP process produces more targeted and qualified leads to better pair hotels with the right groups. Hoteliers can boost their bottom lines by allocating group inventory through multiple distribution channels at a low cost. GroupSync Optimize allows hotels to capture immediate income by selling vouchers and gift certificates to corporate and leisure guests who book rooms, F&B, amenities and even wedding packages through a hotel-branded website.
GroupSync is also the first sourcing and event solutions platform to offer instant online booking of hotel meeting space and guest rooms, which makes bookings easier for planners of less complicated meetings and frees up hotel staff to focus on larger, higher-value events.
TD: How has the advent of instant online booking for groups changed the industry?
KG: GroupSync, the first distribution channel to offer online booking for both group hotel rooms and meeting space, is an affordable way for hotels to distribute inventory and increase revenue. Hotels can offer a private-label, branded hotel website with real-time availability and direct booking for guest rooms, meeting space, F&B, and A/V. Or they can choose to allocate rooms and space through multiple distribution channels to maximise revenue.
GroupSync Engage solves a long-standing frustration among planners, which is the lack of visibility into hotel availability and pricing. Hotels across all brands worldwide are in the process of integrating this new functionality into their reservations systems, which will increase group business with less effort.
TD: How do you see the industry changing in the post-Covid world and what will be your role?
KG: Our current focus is to help the hospitality industry recover from the fallout of the pandemic, particularly hoteliers who are looking to do more with less. Now is the time to automate many formerly manual tasks — RFP responses, marketing and promotions, rooming list management, and booking smaller meetings — and GroupSync has solutions for each of these pain points.
I think there are things hoteliers and meeting planners can control and things they can’t, such as how vaccines are administered, corporate travel policies, and the level of confidence planners and attendees have about events. And then the other main thing is change management. What is the new normal, and how do we help people adapt to that new normal, whether it’s more online transactions or more hybrid meetings? The technology exists to facilitate these ways of doing things, but people have to change their habits and behaviours in order to understand and use the tools.
As an industry, we have a chance to embrace what’s new and create what I would call better value for planners and event organisers, hotel owners and management companies, as well as guests and conference attendees. Over the next 12 to 24 months, we have a great opportunity to bring together the different facets of the marketplace in a way that creates a more successful interaction.
TD: How will the hospitality industry be different in the post-Covid era?
KG: I think event planners and hoteliers have been investigating technology solutions and exploring what the comeback looks like. Everyone’s going to have to adapt, from an event planner perspective to your own policies as a hotelier. Not only has the time allowed everyone to re-evaluate how to come back, but I would argue there will be better services available that aren’t necessarily tied to the pandemic. Meaning, if I have a chance to re-evaluate my business when it’s closed, I tend to do a deeper dive and greater soul searching on what I need to be best in class.
While technology will be a huge part of the comeback, I think it has helped everyone to reflect on questions like, how do I make my meetings better? Who really needs to go to those meetings? How do they become more effective? Hoteliers are asking themselves, how do we provide better guest service? What does check-in look like? How do I understand what is needed for online booking? There’s something to be said for the shutdown that will make everyone better at what I would call the simple things but also be able to solve for some of the more complex issues we’ll have to deal with.
TD: What are your expansion plans in the near future?
KG: In May 2020, Groups360 opened an office in London to better serve our clients in the EMEA region. In August 2020, Groups360 acquired technology that we now call GroupSync Optimize to provide the group housing and attendee engagement tools in GroupSync. With this acquisition, Groups360 has expanded our sales efforts into the APAC region.
We completed the acquisitions of this intellectual property right before the pandemic started in order to round out the pieces we needed to offer direct online booking of guest rooms and meeting space, as well as housing and attendee engagement solutions.
We have been hiring additional developers and expediting our technology development to equip hotels and meeting planners with powerful tools to fuel recovery and help our industry thrive moving forward. In addition to development, we’re working to onboard and integrate hotels that are launching the instant booking functionality so when meetings return, our technology will be ready to go.
TD: What are the new initiatives planned by the company. Any new tie-ups and plans this year?
KG: Our focus for the rest of 2021 will be integrating and onboarding hotels that are using the direct group booking technology in the GroupSync platform. Our plan is to continue simplifying the process of booking rooms and space online and continue to incorporate user feedback to drive our industry forward.
This is going to be a big year for us. We’re planning a series of announcements about partnerships and engagements with hotel brands worldwide. Groups360 will continue to build, acquire and engage with technology that brings the planner, supplier and attendee together to create successful events and meetings around the world.
Learn more about the platform at groups360.com
(Kemp Gallineau, president and CEO of Groups360, which he cofounded in 2014 to simplify and transform the way meetings are booked. He has been in hospitality for 21 years. Prior to Groups360, he worked for Gaylord Entertainment Company, now part of Marriott International, where he started as vice president and assistant general manager at Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. He later rose to senior vice president and chief salesofficer for Gaylord Hotels in Nashville, Tennessee.)