While hoteliers have the art of wedding sales down pat, there are nuances they should consider for potential same-sex wedding clients.
As my frequent readers know, I am a huge advocate of personalizing every phase in the hotel sales process for the prospect in order to stand out from the competition and to demonstrate a positive first impression of authentic hospitality guests will receive throughout the hotel experience.
In conducting hotel sales training workshops in North America, one topic that seems to come up for discussion is how to best personalize the sales cycle for the unique the needs of those are planning same-sex wedding parties and related events. For years, “commitment ceremonies” have long been celebrated at hotels by those engaging in civil unions. However, now that it’s been nearly two years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in every state, smart hotel catering sales executives are recognizing this is an opportunity to tap a growing market.
According to NerdWallet, the projected benefit is upwards of $2.5 billion per year for the wedding and travel industry. Perhaps more exciting, same-sex weddings often bring new energy and a fresh perspective to your hotel’s social media presence, as those in attendance share their experiences.
Recently, I had a chance to speak with Bernadette Smith, president of the Gay Wedding Institute, who is a leading expert on this topic and who has consulted with and provided training for some of the top hotel chains such as Marriott International, Hilton, MGM Resorts International and Intercontinental Hotels Group.
She generously shared some of the challenges she sees when she trains hotel staff on LGBT weddings along with six useful sales, marketing and guest service tips:
1. Same-sex couples want to feel included and represented. Examine your marketing materials, contact form, wedding planner worksheet/timeline and contract to see if you reference the terms “bride and groom.” Create alternative versions for same-sex wedding prospects, or substitute gender-neutral alternatives throughout.
2. If your hotel offers a “wedding planning brochure” or similar marketing collateral, or perhaps a dedicated website page, check to see if all of the photos in your portfolio of only brides and grooms paired together. If so, then add photos that are more inclusive or at least add images of the bride by herself or the groom by himself, which are more ambiguous. If you are sending over PDF versions of proposal documents, have sales staff drop in images more appropriate for the same-sex couple.
3. Retrain your wedding sales team to think beyond the traditional weddings based solely on gender roles to which same-sex couples often don’t adhere. Many same-sex couples choose to reinvent traditions or skip them altogether, so encourage sales managers and event coordinators to personalize the investigative questioning they do during phone conversations and in email exchanges in order for them to then tailor the proposal and related collateral.
4. Review your scripts for wedding inquiries. If a female calls or emails about her wedding plans, do your email templates assume it’s a straight couple? Do your phone receptionists and sales associates automatically ask the name of the groom? If so, update the scripts and email templates with gender-neutral language, therefore demonstrating from the outset that your hotel embraces diversity.
5. Educate yourself on the laws that may affect same-sex couples in your area. For example, in 29 states, LGBT individuals could still be denied services, like that of a wedding photographer or DJ, simply on the basis of their sexuality. Understand that you can become your client’s advocate, so therefore ensure you are aware of and empathetic to the challenges they may face while wedding planning.
6. Make a list of LGBT-friendly wedding professionals in your service area that you are 100% confident will treat your clients with respect, and consider this your new LGBT Wedding referral list (and hopefully one you’ll use for all weddings).
If you are looking to learn more about how to embrace this growing market, visit www.GayWeddingInstitute.com where you can find resources such as loads of LGBT wedding data and even engage in a Gay Wedding Institute Certification Course. You can reach Bernadette Smith directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doug Kennedy is president of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of hotel sales, guest service, reservations and front desk training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Kennedy has been a fixture on the industry’s conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations for more than two decades. Since 1996, Kennedy’s monthly training articles have been published worldwide, making him one of the most widely read hospitality industry authorities. Visit KTN at www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com or email him directly email@example.com. He is the author of “So You REALLY Like Working With People? - Five Principles for Hospitality Excellence.”
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