IT'S NOT OFTEN that you find two major, highly competitive hotel chains complimenting one another on a business initiative. Unless, of course, that initiative makes so much sense that those chains' execs think it could — and should — become an industry standard. That's the case with Passkey, a technology solution that is helping to offset the problem of attrition at meetings and events.

Late last year, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts and Marriott International signed licensing agreements with Passkey International Inc., Quincy, Mass., an Internet-based group reservations management technology that enables the hotel and planner to view room pickup online in real time, 24/7.

Hyatt and Marriott are two of the largest chains to license the housing technology and pass on its use to their meeting planner clients — at no additional charge. Omni Hotels, Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company, and Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans, also offer Passkey.

CVBs Secured, Hotels Next

Started in 1996, Passkey is a granddaddy in the housing technology space, offering an application that allows groups to make reservations within a contracted room block that resides in a centralized online database, giving the convention and visitors bureau, hotel, meeting planner, and attendee real-time access and visibility into the event process.

Passkey now serves as the technology backbone behind many convention bureaus' housing services — “85 percent of the major convention cities nationwide,” according to Greg Pesik, Passkey's president and CEO. Having practically conquered the CVB market, it is aiming at hotels and single-property meetings to make them “Passkey-enabled.”

The motivating factor for hotels to climb aboard is, of course, reducing attrition, or booking around the block. “Historically, it's been the hotel's view that it's up to the customer to fill the rooms. But it's not that way anymore. Nobody enjoys giving an attrition bill,” says Joel Pyser, vice president, field sales, Marriott International, which has been training its national sales office staff and began using the technology March 1. “Passkey is technology that can help planners better manage room blocks. It improves pickup by comparing registrations against reservations.”

One Happy Planner

Susan Grigsby, CMP, conference manager, Corporate Meetings & Events, CUNA Mutual Group, Madison, Wis., has used Passkey at a Hyatt meeting so successfully that she will build its use into the negotiating process. For CUNA, a significant benefit is Passkey's RegLink℠ application, which enables any registration system to integrate with Passkey's housing system.

“Our attendees enter our registration site, [Certain Software's] Reg123, complete their registration, and then they receive an on-screen confirmation that provides a link to Passkey,” says Grigsby. When the attendee gets to Passkey, all public information has been transferred, so there is little information the attendee needs to re-type.

“Since Passkey RegLink allows the planner to view pickups in real time, the need to request reports from the hotel is eliminated,” adds Grigsby. “This saves time and labor for both stakeholders. The reports generated by the system give the planner the ability to monitor pickup, to view who has made room reservations in the block, and to see what percentage of the block has been picked up on a daily basis. … It is critical information when analyzing the total spend and pattern of CUNA Mutual Group's business.” Feedback from customers, she says, has been “extremely favorable, and the return on investment for our team is measurable.”

For Pesik, the goal is nothing short of becoming the industry standard. “The reason that Hyatt and Marriott got on board is because the demand is coming from the ground up; there's a need to eliminate attrition, and hotels are taking back their inventory. The relationship between the hotel and Passkey protects that relationship between the hotel and the planner.”