At Business Events Industry Week, which was held March 7-9 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., Destinations International, the trade association that serves tourism boards and convention and visitors bureaus, announced a partnership with hotel-sourcing technology supplier Groups360.
"To me, [the partnership] was the validation of the value proposition that a CVB can play for the meeting planner in the booking of their meeting — through what I’d say is the most advanced channel for inventory, availability and management," said Don Welsh, president and CEO of Destinations International.
Groups360 — which counts hospitality companies Accor, Hilton, IHG and Marriott among its investors — aims to streamline the venue search and booking process by providing details such as hotel inventory and pricing during the initial shopping experience, via the GroupSync platform. Planners even have opportunities to book smaller events online: The company recently announced instant booking and real-time availability for Marriott International properties, and offers varying degrees of direct-booking functionality for both Hilton and Omni hotels.
The Groups360-DI partnership will provide DI's member organizations with access to GroupSync — although it's unclear yet just how the convention and visitors bureaus will best utilize the platform. As part of the collaboration, the Groups360 team intends to research, develop and deploy technology that will allow more efficient distribution of room blocks and meeting spaces to meet the needs of planners.
"I think there’s going to be a lot of learning going on," said David O'Donohoe, vice president of brand management for Groups360. "We’re going to be asking a lot of questions of planners, CVBs and DMOs to find out what are the issues that are being faced today."
GroupSync already takes a big-picture sourcing approach, according to O'Donohoe, as opposed to a focus on individual properties. "We’re a little bit unique in the sense that when planners use our sourcing tool, the first thing that they see are destinations — we give destination results before we even give hotel results," O'Donohoe said. "But we even give recommendations on other cities that score high based on the preferences and priorities that planners enter into the system."
This collaboration allows Groups360 to explore how that might be best used to the mutual benefit of meeting planners and the destination organizations themselves.