By Allan Lynch
A SPECIAL SECTION BROUGHT TO YOU BY MEETING PROFESSIONALS INTERNATIONAL
There is a digital dilemma in the meetings sector. It’s not about event apps or better presentation technology—it’s more basic. It’s the failure of supplier websites to provide useful—and accurate—information.
Recently, Marriott and Radisson announced plans for new websites geared toward meetings, but will those sites provide the detail planners and incentive houses need, or will they, like so many other hotel, convention center and other venue websites, miss the mark?
Meetings account for 30 percent to 40 percent of a hotel’s business, yet the information planners and incentive houses need is often dismissively handled on websites. And collateral print and digital materials don’t compliment websites.
Supplier Website Accuracy
Many supplier websites are inaccurate, lack essential information (like number of guest rooms), are hard to navigate (meeting space is hidden under weddings) and overlook local benefits that could help spur interest in a particular property.
These oversights and errors may be becoming codified by the consolidation in property ownership, which spreads a mistake made at one property across the brand and to all flags within the chain.
I first noticed it several years ago doing a nationwide project. Research requires we directly contact properties and destinations. Sometimes to qualify a property, I, like planners, go online to tire kick to see if they meet the standards of our readers. For that national project I clicked through 128 websites. Only 11 had information I could trust.
There’s a staggering amount of inconsistency in destination and property facts. For example, on a September site inspection, the sales director told me they had 725,000 square feet of meeting and event space. However, the press kit fact sheet said they have “600,000 square feet of flexible meeting convention, exhibit and pre-function space.” The property’s website listed 757,478 square feet, while their destination marketing organization’s site showed “more than 700,000 square feet.” Cvent listed its total meeting space as “>100,000 square feet.”
As for F&B outlets, the property fact sheet listed 17 restaurants and lounges on site, while a glossy resort guide listed 13 on one page and 19 on another. The website said 15. So many numbers, so much inconsistency.
I wonder if some sales directors ever read their websites. Researching a mountain meetings piece I found the website for a large (470-plus guest rooms), well-known ski resort that listed “in-room bathrooms” under room amenities. Was this a joke or content provided by wildly inexperienced staff? Three years later “in-room bathrooms” are still listed as an amenity!
Purge Non-Essential Content
Many companies, events and destinations throw a site on the web and think they’re done. At least that’s how they act. Websites have to be dynamic to get attention.
According to Tekeye.uk, there are 1.8 billion websites in existence. That’s one site for every four people on earth. And new sites are added, on average, every two seconds. That’s almost the birth rate. Of all these websites, less than 1 million sites account for 50 percent of all web traffic.
Website owners should consider how often their site is updated or refreshed.
In an interview with travel aggregator TravelMole, Alex Painter, president of website speed and performance testing company Eggplant, said it’s important for businesses to identify and remove “single points of failure” from websites.
Painter advised getting “rid of non-essential content. If there is anything on your site that is redundant, get rid of it. It’s the excess baggage to your customers’ serene and speedy journey. Newer features are added more often than older features are removed.” That can contribute to the space and amenity confusion. For example, a hotel re-invents their dining room: new menu, new name, new décor. That gets added to the website, but the former name isn’t deleted and potential clients are confused about what is available.
Much of the property and venue website messaging has become mind-numbingly generic and repetitive. As a consequence of this repetition, messages get weaker and less relevant to planners.
In a LinkedIn discussion on the unreliability of hotel capacity charts, the VP of a Texas-based management services company said he cuts capacity by 25 percent: “For some reason most hotels are completely incapable of measuring the dimensions of their rooms accurately.” A hotelier responded, “capacity charts are not intended to be a standalone tool. These charts are used as a point of reference, but, more importantly, to have people engage in a conversation about the event.”
The idea of capacity charts—or a lack of other property details—being a place from which to start a conversation is a passé concept illustrating the disconnect between seller and buyer. Planners today are too time-pressed. They’re often pulling together a client proposal from the road, in the evening or on a weekend. They don’t have time or the inclination to call a property. They specifically don’t want to engage in any conversation with anyone they can’t first qualify.
We have the technology to communicate well, but we don’t always seem to be doing so.
Allan Lynch is a former newspaper publisher who chucked the office routine to return to his first love: writing. Based near the world’s highest tides in the Bay of Fundy, he specializes in writing about the meeting industry.