July 20, 2021

Hotel Jobs Evolve to Meet Group, Family Travel Demands

New Hotel Positions Include Hybrid Event Expert, Chief Reunion Officer

As group travel rebounds from a near standstill due to the pandemic, it's expected to look and feel much different than it has in the past. As a result, hotels are hiring group-specific roles to help meeting planners seamlessly customize solutions.

Hotel News Now reached out to four hotel companies and properties to detail the new roles they've established during the year for family reunions or hybrid events.

Hybrid Event Experts

Steve Enselein, senior vice president of events at Hyatt Hotels Corp., said meeting planners have expressed that planning hybrid and in-person events is very different from planning virtual-only events, and requires significantly more time and thought.

In April, Hyatt launched "Together by Hyatt," a new suite of meetings and events offerings. Additionally, the company hired teams of hybrid event experts and a support squad.

"We know that events will continue to look and feel different as we all navigate the path forward, which is why we developed specialized roles to support planners at every step," he said via email.

Enselein said the hybrid event experts bring a deep-rooted expertise in technology and events to ensure the virtual components are successfully integrated and executed, while the support squad can provide real-time tech support for virtual attendees and speakers.

The goal was to provide planners with an additional peace of mind that the technology side is covered. These colleagues received special training on hybrid events, he added.

In addition to setting up the event technology platform, the hybrid event experts can also assist with food and beverage for remote attendees.

From a cleanliness and safety standpoint, each Hyatt property around the world has a hygiene and well-being leader who is responsible for ensuring the hotel adheres to all protocols and procedures. This individual can also be available for event planning and day-of preparations.

Enselein said there's opportunity for hybrid events to add value well beyond the pandemic.

Reunion Designer

Silvia Baxter, partner at Baxter Hospitality, has added reunion designer to her title this year. Baxter Hospitality has two hotels, the Sesuit Harbor House and Chapter House in Massachusetts, each with 21 rooms.

Baxter said the property size presents opportunities for buyouts. The inns are seven miles apart, allowing larger family celebrations to book both.

"As people gather again, we are seeing a steady stream of interest in reunion bookings for the summer and fall seasons — this includes Chapter House, too, which is set to open at the end of July," she said. "Just last month, we had a full buyout of family and friends taking over Sesuit Harbor House, and so far this year, we've hosted more than a dozen mini-reunions."

Because of this influx of requests for family reunions, Baxter saw an opportunity to offer the services of a reunion designer.

"Groups can leave the itinerary with me. I completely customize the getaway to serve exactly what the family is looking for, whether it be on-site outdoor cookouts, clam bakes and bonfires, or off-property excursions," she added.

"With experience managing groups and with connections to local partners, the role was a no-brainer for me to take on. I love arranging these gatherings and seeing everyone excited to be reunited and together again, and doing so at our hotels."

Chief Reunion Officer

Marwan Haddad, director of hotel sales at the Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village in Cape Coral, Florida, said via email that demand for both group and leisure business has been steadily increasing since January, and is expected to exceed 2019 levels in the next few months.

Starting in March, Haddad said, the property has put more focus on family and group travel to ensure offerings are tailored to the types of guests who are booking.

"With the COVID-19 vaccine having been distributed, many families are planning trips and getting together again, especially for the summer seasons. Many extended family members have not seen each other in a very long time — almost a year for some," he said.

To cater to the specific needs of a family reunion trip, the hotel added the role of chief reunion officer. Because the labor shortage was a concern, Haddad said his team felt very lucky to be able to internally hire this position.

"Our senior catering sales executive took on the responsibilities of this role. ... She is very passionate about family reunions," he said.

"The chief reunion officer role starts from the time the inquiry arrives, and from there [they] work closely with the client on planning all activities and menus to ensure everything is tailored to that specific family."

This position collaborates closely with all departments at the resort, especially with culinary, revenue and front-office teams, Haddad added.

He said the more people learn the property has this role, the more demand there has been for it.

Director of Group and Entertainment

Dream Hollywood in Los Angeles has experienced an increase in group leads, prompting the team to hire a director of group and entertainment.

Rosie Karakan, area director of sales and marketing, said in an email interview this role is helping the property maintain the volume of sales leads as well as provide a higher level of service for guests and travel partners.

"We are all working with a different reality than we were at the beginning of 2020, and we need to be nimble enough to be able to work with the new demands and needs of our guests," she said.

Dream Hollywood has had similar positions in the past, but the markets in which the role is focused are unique, she said.

Though some companies are revising hiring requirements in response to the labor shortage, Karakan said it was important for Dream Hollywood to bring in someone with hotel and hospitality experience for this specific role.

"Our hope is that having this role will provide event and travel planners with a personal connection to the hotel, [with someone] who is knowledgeable and helpful as they plan their next event," she said. "It makes a huge difference, now more than ever, to have a contact available who you can rely on to walk you through the entire process of contracting, planning and then, of course, actualizing your vision."

Copyright 2021 CoStar Realty Information Inc. All rights reserved. From https://www.costar.com. By By Dana Miller, Hotel News Now.

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