Small social groups can bring big business to hotels
Small social groups can bring big business to hotels
12 MAY 2017 8:17 AM

When the weather’s warm, some hotels book an abundance of social groups, such as wedding parties and family reunions. 

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Many hotels can count on booking large corporate groups at certain times of the year, but for some hotels, a lot of group business is tied to smaller social groups, from weddings to reunions.

At The Tennessean in Knoxville, Tennessee, spring is the perfect time for event attendees to view flowers and greenery in full bloom on the 1982 World’s Fair Park lawn, on which the hotel is located.

“(The) peak seasons for weddings in East Tennessee is spring,” Tennessean GM Jan McCormick, said. “The beautiful foliage and temperate spring weather in the area make for a gorgeous backdrop for outdoor weddings and events.” 

He added that weddings “make up the majority of small groups business” at the hotel, but reunions are also hosted at the hotel in the summer. The hotel gets business from weddings hosted on-property, as well as room block reservations for off-site weddings.

“We should host 10 to 15 weddings, but will host the guests of many more,” he said. “We currently have approximately 20 (groups) reviewing room blocks and reservations for incoming wedding parties, family members and guests.”

Hotel staffing, perks and challenges
During the peak season for small groups, McCormick said he makes sure the full-time staff at The Tennessean is prepared.

“We will hire for additional part-time positions before peak season, but we try to reduce turnover as much as possible because we invest so much time in training our staff to provide guests with a personal luxury experience,” he said.

McCormick added that he checks in with the heads of each department at the hotel to make sure all positions are covered.

“To guarantee the most intimate and upscale experience in our hotel restaurant and bar, The Drawing Room, we have hired additional food-and-beverage staff to ensure each guest feels like they are the only person in the space with a private server,” he said. “We assess each department’s needs before peak season and make hires based on confirmed bookings and expected bookings.”

Hotel Emma in San Antonio, Texas, sees a lot of weddings business in the spring and fall when the weather is nice, said GM Bill Petrella. The hotel is normally sold out on weekends during that time, he said, but even during the high wedding season, staffing at the hotel remains “pretty consistent.”

The 142-room boutique property hosts the majority of its wedding guests on weekends, and gets room blocks for wedding parties on and off property, Petrella said. He said wedding guests at the hotel typically stay one to two nights, “often on Friday and Saturday.”

The nice thing about hosting a lot of weddings is having strong reception space demand throughout the year, Petrella said. “The only challenges are having seasonal pricing in effect and the reception space may be already booked,” he said.

“We find that many bridal parties want our space and will often shift a day or two in order to have their wedding with us,” he said. “We also may have two weddings in a day, brunch and then a dinner. Every weekend is really an exciting time for us to partner with the bride and groom and offer an amazing experience for their big day. We are forever linked to them and a part of their family scrapbook; that is not a responsibility we take lightly. Therefore, we are motivated to make it a great day for the entire party.”

Additional space, destination weddings
The Barnsley Resort in Adairsville, Georgia, also hosts weddings on-property and houses guests in cottages at the resort. In 2018, the property plans to add an inn and more event space.

“The addition of the inn will expand our opportunities to host larger groups of up to 150 (single occupancy) as well as offer the ability for the resort to continue to host multiple small groups simultaneously,” GM Shawn Jervis said. “The 54 rooms and one suite in the inn will offer the convenience of having all attendees within the same building for those planners who prefer that.”

The decision to add the Inn and Georgian Hall, he said, was based on “increased demand for corporate meetings and events, along with special events such as weddings.”

Approximately 100 employees will be added to the team when the project is completed, he said. A 5,000 square-foot ballroom will be included in the Georgian Hall event space.

“We do our best to provide opportunities for our colleagues throughout the year, although some positions are more seasonal in nature, such as pool servers during the summer months,” Jervis said.

The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake in Geneva, Ohio, gets a “good range” of small business, from weddings to family reunions to religious, educational and corporate retreats, according to GM Eric Frantz. He said the Lodge has versatile meeting and event space, and hosts weddings and reunions usually in the summer; and conferences and corporate group business is normally heaviest in the fall. 

Since the property is right by Lake Erie, Frantz said, it’s a destination wedding site. Rates fluctuate for small groups, he said, with discounts offered based on the number of bookings.

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