ENABLING THE MEETINGS MARKET

Tired of calling to book a business meeting at a hotel? Go to www.meetingsinamoment.com, a proprietary Starwood website, and book one online. Launched as a pilot program in February at the Sheraton Boston and the Sheraton Centre Toronto, Meetings in a Moment aims to “provide the easiest channel to do business with Starwood for small, single-day meetings,” says Scott Reynolds, product manager for Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “Almost all of our hotels have small breakout rooms that are underutilized primarily because it's not worth the time for the hotel to spend resources selling the rooms.”

Planners seeking a meeting for six to 10 people found it a hassle to “pick up the phone and play voice-mail tag,” Reynolds says. “Now we're putting everything they need online at their fingertips. They can find available rooms with pricing, f&b and audiovisual items, then use a credit card to make a definite booking.”

Starwood developed the Meetings in a Moment website, or front end, while Newmarket International developed the back end software.

At Meetings in a Moment, you can view a room in diagram and photo form along with pricing information. Once you enter payment information and book, the hotel is notified, takes the room out of inventory and follows up by phone with the meeting planner within 24 hours of booking. The booker gets an instant online confirmation, followed by an e-mail confirmation.

The idea was “to make it as easy to book a small meeting as it is to book a hotel room,” Reynolds says. Starwood hopes to roll out Meetings in a Moment to around 80 of its hotels in North America by year's end.

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