2020 Meetings & Events retrospect with Heidi Hendrickx
Heidi Hendrickx is the leading lady of the Crowne Plaza Antwerp Meetings & Events department. In the course of the last few months she has managed to successfully transition the hotel to a “meet safe-environment”, helped front back and center, and above all kept the spirits high. This gives me more than reasons enough to catch up with her.
Heidi, I’m really happy to see you (be it virtually)! How did you experience the past few months?
It’s been a challenging couple of months to say the least. Obviously, safety has been a number 1 focus point at the hotel. This means the first weeks of the pandemic were all about adapting our hotel to new protocols in order to allow guests to safely meet and stay with us. Hand sanitizer, floor stickering, plexiglass screens, you name it – we have it. We’ve also written down procedures to follow in case anything happens. A well-prepared hotelier is worth two, especially now.
After reopening we found ourselves in a reality that was very different from what we were used to. By government regulation working from home was strongly recommended and as the hotel was not running on full capacity everyone stepped in at any department needed on days they were working from the hotel.
From a conference and events perspective things have been different as well. Unfortunately, we are facing a situation where events are prohibited. This means we have our hands full rebooking the events scheduled to take place. I like to keep a positive mindset and while it’s unfortunate we aren’t hosting events and meetings right now; I was also really happy to see inquiries rolling in again during the time when meetings were allowed. It confirms my believe that people would start meeting again once the pandemic is under control.
We’ve also used this time to come up with some creative ideas for events that we’ll launch the minute we can host again. Stay tuned!
Crowne Plaza Antwerp was one of the first hotels that started using Get Into MoRe to optimize revenue from meetings, events and groups back in the day. Did the current situation change the way in which you use our solution?
It definitely did. We’ve always seen meetings and events revenue as an important piece of the pie. Back when demand was high, we used Get Into MoRe on a daily basis to make sure no revenue was left on the table. As in meetings and events you work with large revenues attached to one inquiry the impact of one good or one bad decision is not to be underestimated.
This translated in, for instance, a smart inventory management strategy where we would be very cautious about which inquiries to accept on a certain moment prior to event date. To do this we would use a combination of Get Into MoRe’s demand calendar, demand pace analysis and the historic lead time analysis. This sounds more impressive than it is to be honest. I love working with Get Into MoRe, because the tool presents this information in a way you simply cannot get it “wrong”. Which makes all of us here super data-savvy.
Fast forward a couple of months and pro-actively denying inquiries to hold inventory feels like something from a different day and age.
This doesn’t mean we no longer use the tool. Back in September Get Into MoRe was of tremendous help in the budgeting process. Today we use the solution to keep an overview, look out for periods where we see pickup and most importantly discover new patterns and trends to navigate through these challenging times.
Are there any trends and patterns you discovered that you can share with us?
I’d like to point out two trends, the first one being a much shorter lead times for any meeting or event hosted after March this year. It therefor makes more sense to look at the lead time of, for instance, September to predict what might happen in Q1 2021 than to look one year back as we used to.
We also saw a shift in the type of inquiries received. Crowne Plaza Antwerp is an excellent venue to host your larger multi-day conferences and we used to host quite a lot of these. In a natural way the other days were filled by one-day trainings and smaller meetings. Currently, there is close to no demand for large conferences but luckily, we can still rely on the training groups and smaller meetings.
We use Get Into MoRe to look into our historic demand for these segments to spot accounts we haven’t heard from and pro-actively contact them to see if we can help them out in any way during these times.
You’re a woman with a plan!
I have one more question before I let you get back to your day: “Is this the new normal or is this the temporary abnormal?”.
That’s an interesting one. The truth will probably be somewhere in between. The current health crisis has been going on for quite some time and I wouldn’t be surprised if some customs from the new normal stick with us. We are all much better informed about how viruses and with them deceases spread that I assume we will keep on seeing mouth masks and hand sanitizer in public places.
I am 100% convinced, though, that meetings and events will return from the moment they can be organized safely as I already saw proof of that in September and October this year. It appears the act of “meeting” is something that is strangled deeply in our DNA.
We are more than happy to welcome everyone here at Crowne Plaza Antwerp, soon.