Inclusions and amenities
Part of how hotels appeal to tour operators and group leaders now is with an evolving set of amenities and inclusions.
Tour packages in Hershey often include admission to Hersheypark and the World of Chocolate, as well as meals during the group’s time in the area. Groups can opt to stay in the midmarket Hershey Lodge or pay a premium to stay in the four-star Hershey Hotel. And contrary to the stereotypical understanding of tour groups, the high-end property is a popular choice.
“We get tour groups there because they want to stay in that property — they didn’t buy it on price,” Kracke said. “The clientele on that coach has a history of high spends, so they know what it costs to stay there.”
Lafayette Hotels’ properties span a variety of price points as well, and Haggett sees many groups that are willing to pay more for a room with a view.
“They use all the different options,” he said. “A person can call me and want a tour rate in the fall for $69. But if he wants to be on the water, he can pay $129 or $159. Some tours just want to be on the water, and they’ll pay the added premium to do that.”
Other groups continue to look for value in their hotel buys. Today, that value often includes upgraded amenities that may not have been common 10 years ago, such as free wireless Internet access, flat-screen televisions and hot breakfasts.
“When groups are looking for hotels, price is always a factor,” Carlson’s Myerson said. “I think that they’re looking for added amenities. The free breakfast, a full hot breakfast, is something that’s really important when groups are looking for hotels.”
Country Inn and Suites is one of several midservice brands that now offers a hot breakfast as part of every room night: the inns serve eggs, bacon, oatmeal and other breakfast staples not found on the traditional food-and-pastry continental buffets. But upgraded amenities like that must still come with some other classic group tour services.
“Most tour operators look for a hotel with interior corridors,” Haggett said. “They want an elevator or ground-floor rooms. Free bus parking is a must, and having a restaurant on-site is a plus. And everybody likes a swimming pool, fitness center and a free daily newspaper.”