Hilton Hotels Corp. recently overhauled and relaunched its online booking tool for small meetings.

In addition to a live inventory of room blocks, e-Events now allows planners to book meeting space, food and beverage, and audiovisual equipment at 2,300 North American properties. Blocks of five to 25 sleeping rooms can be booked using the tool, and the system dovetails with enhancements to the chain's Guest List Manager tool for meeting planners.

Groups with fewer than 25 attendees represent 60 percent of all sales leads at Hilton, according to Bob Brooks, vice president of e-sales for Hilton, and small groups also represent the fastest-growing market segment for the chain. An estimated 4,000 meetings will be booked through the tool in 2007, he predicts.

“With so much shopping and commerce now being transacted online, it seemed to us a natural evolution to be able to book a meeting online,” Brooks explained. “Clearly, we've found a market for it.”

Standard Contract

After planners input the desired destination and their group's required number of sleeping rooms, meeting rooms, or both, the system returns a listing of appropriate Hilton properties with available space. Planners then can order F&B service from set menus, select meeting rooms, reserve AV equipment, plan their meeting room setup, and make other arrangements through the online interface.

Nonnegotiable rates are pre-loaded into the tool by the properties, and planners must agree to a standard Hilton contract before paying with a credit card, Brooks said.

A confirmation and receipt is then sent by e-mail to the planner, and a property representative follows up with a phone call. The tool then generates a customizable online registration Web page where attendees can book rooms and register for the event.

The meeting information is loaded into Hilton's Guest List Manager so that planners can track their block with real-time inventory.

By the end of 2007, Hilton aims to expand e-Events to allow room blocks of up to 50 and to begin to roll out the tool to international properties, Brooks said.