Starwood's new online booking engine for day meetings was operating in 25 hotels as of mid-May, with plans to double that number by the end of the summer. The service allows planners to make a definite booking for meeting space, F&B, and audiovisual equipment for a group of up to 25 people as long as it's 30 days or fewer in advance of the meeting and does not include sleeping rooms.

The system,, is straightforward. Planners select a property, pick a date, and enter a time for the meeting. They then choose a room setup and indicate the number of attendees. The system is tied to the hotel's inventory, so available meeting rooms that fit the group are then listed with their dimensions and price. A screen with F&B and AV choices is next, as well as a place to write in requests.

After that, it's a matter of securing the meeting with a credit card. “We used the same model as booking a sleeping room online,” says Scott Reynolds, Starwood product manager, who says the system's ability to accept payment sets it apart. Planners who want to negotiate contract terms need to skip the online system and call the hotel directly, or, says Reynolds, some clients have pre-negotiated day-meeting contracts.