With more than two decades of sales experience with Hyatt under her belt, Reneka Edwards speaks nothing but the gospel truth about how different market segments impact her company’s bottom line. Here, the senior sales manager at Hyatt Regency Atlanta talks candidly about the faith-based market.
What is the value of religious group sales to Hyatt Regency Atlanta?
The faith-based business is really important to our hotel. The hotel is also really important to the community: It was the first in Atlanta to hire African-American employees and to do minority business downtown. With the Civil Rights movement and history of Atlanta, that’s huge. Southern Christian Leadership Conference [founded in Atlanta in 1957] was the last conference Martin Luther King Jr. did here.
Why are faith-based events important?
It’s the consistency of it. That’s why we value those relationships. It doesn’t matter if we’re in an up economy or a down economy; it’s a huge part of our business. I’m meeting with customers no matter what the rate structure is. We also partner with a lot of civic groups in the city because we’re committed to that faith-based business. It’s part of our fabric.
The fact that we’re able to come together in fellowship is an amazing thing, and hopefully we as hoteliers are able to help facilitate that.
Are faith-based planners becoming savvier in negotiations?
Absolutely. A lot of them have been in their positions a long time and they’re not only planners, but also members of their organizations. They connect with it on a personal level, so it’s important to negotiate. They’re mindful in what they ask for.
How can groups get more bang for their buck?
Have flexibility in your dates. With many faith-based groups, by charter they can’t move out of a certain week. But if I can’t find availability for you in 2018, for example, be open to 2019, 2020 or 2021. You get more buying power the further out you can book. We also love to send business within our brand. If I can’t handle your event this year, I’ll call the Hyatt in St. Louis or Dallas. I have good relationships with counterparts in other cities. At the end of the day, we want you to have a successful program, and we’re committed to making that happen. But we still have goals to meet, so we want something that works for both sides.