Hotel Giants Invest $50 Million in Groups360 Meetings-Booking Platform

Accor, Hilton, IHG and Marriott will have seats on the board of the technology company.

David Kloeppel (left), executive chairman, and Kemp Gallineau, CEO, Groups360

Group-booking tech provider Groups360 revealed this week a combined $50 million investment from major hotel companies Accor, Hilton, InterContinental Hotels Group and Marriott International. The infusion goes toward enhancing the GroupSync platform, an online sourcing tool for planners. That enhanced platform will offer transparent rates, fees and relevant meeting content in an online marketplace, according to Groups360, with plans to eventually deliver real-time access to group-rooms inventory, pricing and instant booking for less-complex meetings.

Groups360 was launched several years ago by two former Gaylord Entertainment executives, former COO and president David Kloeppel and former chief sales officer Kemp Gallineau, who now serve as executive chairman and CEO of Groups360, respectively. The former hospitality executives said at the time that they were setting out to fix the broken RFP process for sourcing group space -- in part by incorporating market data and pricing algorithms into the search process, and using that unbiased information to display results. The latest investment will help the founders to ramp up the platform and its adoption, they say.

"We have listened to meeting planners and heard their needs," noted CEO Gallinau. "Planners are looking for a simple and seamless experience for booking group rooms, meeting space and ancillary services. Simple meetings should have a simple solution to make bookings across multiple brands easier. With this new investment in our business, we will scale up our sales, marketing and engineering teams to deliver this enhanced GroupSync functionality to more planners around the world."

GroupSync will offer the "smartest" search, added Gallineau, because of the recommendations it makes based on planner preferences and market-price predictions.

Each of the investors will be represented on the board of Groups360, so the four hospitality companies now have a direct stake in the development of the technology. That could represent a shift in resources for hoteliers such as Hilton, whose execs have said in recent years that they were working on proprietary tech to automate real-time inventory and booking for simple meetings. It stands to reason that a platform that offers venues across multiple hospitality companies would be more useful to planners; for its part, Groups360 promises that GroupSync will include content for "a wide variety of brands and independent properties," including those not sold or marketed by any of the four major investors.

Hilton would not publicly comment on the status of any proprietary booking technology under development. "Through our investment, we are pleased to support Groups360's vision of a cost-effective, simple-to-use online sourcing and booking solution that introduces additional options for meeting and event planners," a company spokesperson noted, implying a more-options-is-better approach to accommodate the more than one million meetings Hilton properties host each year.

Kloeppel and Gallineau aren't the first former Gaylord execs to take on the "broken" RFP process for sourcing group space. Mike Mason, formerly a senior vice president of sales with Gaylord, founded Zentila in 2010, an online sourcing solution that was designed to reduce "eRFP spam" for hoteliers and focus the selection process for planners. Zentila was acquired by etouches (now Aventri) in 2016 and is currently among Aventri's offerings.