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by Michael J. Shapiro | August 01, 2010

The Rocco Forte Collection, a group of 13 luxury hotels in Europe, unveiled a new meetings-specific site (roccofortemeetings.com) in mid-July. In addition to serving as a hub for meeting-space details for the group's properties -- complete with room and capacity counts, special rates and offers, meeting- planner references and more -- the new site lets planners search for venues based on meeting-room or hotel capacity, while also specifying room setup. Planners can generate PDF fact sheets and price quotes as well, listing all the criteria they have specifically requested.

Previously, meeting planners could find meeting-space information on the individual property websites within the Rocco Forte Collection, but navigating from one hotel to another and making comparisons could be cumbersome, according to brand manager Richard Power. The centralizing site was designed to make the planner's job easier. And, he added, because many people are now familiar with the 14-year-old hotel brand, they search for meeting space differently.
 
"We're past the stage now where people look at the individual properties," Power explained. "Particularly in the meetings market, they're going in to have a look for which of our properties they should propose to their clients."

This centralized approach isn't relegated to the relatively small company in Europe. Embassy Suites also unveiled new meetings-search capabilities in June, allowing potential clients to search for group space by region, drilling down to such details as amount of meeting space needed and the hotel's proximity to a convention center. While brandwide searches previously were available through the company's site, a city first had to be specified.

Similarly, Marriott Inter­national's new Inno­vention Network, a collection of 60 of the brand's largest meeting and convention properties, also offers new, robust search functionality, first by geographical region and then by number of peak rooms, ballroom size and total meeting space, as well as whether on-site golf or spa services are required.

Not every lodging company sees value in this approach, however. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, for example, still posts all meeting-space data by hotel and doesn't offer a meetings-driven brandwide search. According to Susan Helstab, executive vice president of marketing, "In doing research, what we found from meeting planners is that they generally have a hotel or destination in mind already."