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Hotel industry explore various market with the aim of using the available facilities to make profits all around the year whether is during the high season or it is low season. The different market provided by hotelier lead to provision of room or accommodation to individuals and groups. Some of the markets provide additional service to the traditional accommodation facilities; such include meeting rooms, conference halls, trade shows and other recreational facilities. These facilities also serve to increase the revenue generated by the hotels. Each hotel normal evaluates the potential or profitability or various market segments before coming with a decision on which segment to adopt I accordance to its plans. In this research in am going to define SMERF as a hotel market segment and discus various issues surrounding these segment
SMERF is an abbreviation used in military industry. It is an acronym standing for Social, Military, Educational, Religious, Fraternal which indicate or show the market segment for reasons of sales of meeting or conference facilities and banqueting rooms (Buttle and Bowie, 2004).
Characteristics of SMERF
SMERF has various characteristics that distinguish it for other segments. The characteristics are; very price-sensitive (require law prices), it is nonprofit, varies considerable in the meeting room requirements, meeting is done during low season and family members are often brought along,, ranges from 50 to 500 together with the sleeping rooms per night (these normally consist of two singles in every room, and the meeting organizers are normally volunteer and are changed every year. The main intent of SMERF groups is to ensure that the facilities or tourism location is fully occupied during the law season. In most cases the individuals involved in these SMERF groups are a representation of a possible future or the potential of the business.
Major Markets of SMERF
The major markets of SMERF are related to the five groups depicted in the acronyms. The markets are social groups market, military groups markets, Educational groups market, Religious groups markets and fraternal groups market. According to Buttle and Bowie (2004) these markets share characteristics but also have unique characteristics and featured that distinguish them.
Social groups markets
The social markets and the related groups tend to originate from the same country. They are regional, local, and national in their scope. The markets are characterized by groups with a large variety of interests and also vary in terms of purpose. These groups hold both small and large meeting. Examples of such groups include such as ethnic groups, chess clubs football clubs, bowling clubs and others.
The sources for these markets include yellow pages for phone book directories, socio-political organizations, clubs, athletic organizations, Property’s employees and suppliers and others (Buttle and Bowie, 2004).
Military groups markets and re-unions
This is a market segment that is rapidly growing. The planners and organizers are gaining knowledge about the segment at an increasing rate a fact that may be responsible for the rapid growth of the segment (Buttle and Bowie, 2004).
This involves a combination of reunions and vacations. The segment is very price conscious and is characterized by double occupancy. The market segments is characterized by the groups meeting in specific months such as September, October and weekends
Family and Class Reunions
These highly depend on the availability of recreational amenities. It is also often hosted by planners who are nonprofessional. The market segment requires less space as compared to other markets.
The basic sources for this market include The Reunion Network (TRN new), reunions magazine, military reunions news and the military reunion handbook which is a guide for the reunion planners.
Educational groups markets
Educational groups meetings in most cases are tied to the summer. The attendees often make use of college classrooms and dormitories whenever necessary. According to Buttle and Bowie (2004) this groups of SMERF is very sensitive to prices since a good number of those who attend the meeting (mostly educators) foot their own bills i.e. accommodation or the rooms, meals among others. It is short-lived or has a short length and also targets regional, local as well as national meetings. In this market accessibility is very critical must be considered by the planners.
Those involved in organizing educational SMERF are often educators on full-term basis who volunteer their time to ensure that the SMERF takes place in a successful manner. Only a fraction of these organizers are often member of SMERF planners associations and thus can be identified and reached easily through their websites. A good number of schools and colleges own helpful directories of educational associations, alumni offices and the divisions of the continuing students at universities. Educational Associations and related Directories or pamphlets are also good sources of education.
Religious groups markets
Large religious meeting and convention normally ring together a large number of people to the venue of conventions. The number of attendants in most cases range from 10,000 people to 30,000 people. The people book almost ever hotel room in venue city. Such conventions sometimes are normally referred to as countrywide conventions in some places by the Visitors Bureau in these areas. In most cases these large religious conventions and meetings last for a week or even longer than that (Buttle and Bowie, 2004). Many organizers who represent these large groups are members of associations which in turn represent over 200 varied denominations. Such associations make information concerning their services available through various channels such as websites on the internet. In most cases, religious groups conduct their activities and meeting during weekends, which often are low periods for most hotel downtown. Their meetings are also common during summer and the participants tend to prefer family oriented sites.
In most tourism destinations that do not have a tourism market that is strong, religious groups provide the best SMERF that can be implored by the local visitors of tourism boards. The first contact the SMERF has with the destination counts a lot since it influences that groups perception of the of the destination and whether individual in the group may be willing to visit the place again. Membership with the associations that represents such group is also vital since these associations such Religious Conference Management Associations are a source of constant supply of the groups that require accommodation and conference facilities. Other sources other than Religious Conference Management Association (RCMA) highlights include yellow pages on churches, religious groups, Synagogues and Mosques.
Fraternal groups markets
Fraternities and Sororities
These are characterized by meeting with a national outlook and are mostly conducted during summertime. It is also characterized by educational retreats and various numerous leadership training institutions. They also include council meeting and board meetings (Golden-Romero, 2007).
Professional and Honorary Societies and Service Groups
The markets include the American Legion and professional journalism societies such as Sigma Delta Chi. Some of these groups hold large annual events and parties of function accompanies by special activities and fund-raising activities such.
The leading sources for these markets include student activities in student groups in schools, National Panhellenic conference, Alumni associations, National Interfraternity Council, Fraternity Executives Associations and yellow pages for sororities, fraternities and fraternal organizations.
This large market segment is actually made up of several thousands of governments that cut across the country. Furthermore, the administration segment is controlled by the mechanisms established by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which establish the quantity of money allowable for travel-related expenses. Most planners (and there are multiple categories), belong to the Society of Government Meeting Planners (SGMP). This association is also taking part in the publication of the website called MeetingsNet. Com. The government market segment has very well-established guidelines for bids and requests for proposals. This segment typically books short term, four to eight months out (Golden-Romero, 2007). Additionally, other official meeting by the government that looks at the per diem quantities can be known via networking from government contacts and some times research through the membership of SGMP.
Hotels with their respective beverage and food retail centers ought to be aware of the per diems (dollar counts) that are listed for every city in the government publications. In this regards, hotels attracted to this market come up with room rates in their marketing plan and decide on the preferred amount of rooms and proceeds and during which periods they would like to
fill with this kind of business.
Fraternal Public Service Organizations
This market is made up of 2 types of categories, that which are tough supporters of community service. The first one is fraternal service associations. The most popular community civic collections of individuals have familiar names: Kiwanis, Loyal Order of Moose Lions Club, and the Rotary Club. Others which are also popular groups within the fraternal category include International Shiners and veterans interrelated groups, like American Legion and VFW (Veterans of ForeignWars). Planners within this category are in some way voluntary. All the organizations have articles in each city, which conduct local monthly gatherings. The popularity they have is in line with the wide variety of community activities they conduct. The second type is made up of college sororities and related fraternities. They are normally full of activities only during the summer and may require only overflow guest rooms as well as meeting spaces. This market usually makes use of college dormitories and classrooms. Planners for the biggest activities often are paid, and book two to three years in advance. In case of the fraternal market, hotel executives can begin by becoming active in these organizations at local level, as well as donating their time, hotel function space, and support. Leads can be attained initially through networking and inquiries for regional or national upcoming events. For sororities and fraternities, the alumni office on college campuses usually can provide a contact person and contact information.
Medical health care meetings
They are made up of a wide range of health care professions and pharmaceutical enterprises. The segment is said to be growing very fast. Most of its meetings are made up of less than 200 people and include introducing new products by drug or medicine manufacturers and conferences on new surgical procedures and treatments.
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These meetings draw attendance from all levels of health care professional and are held during the peak periods of fall and spring. Close to almost every meeting planning are meeting planners are professional and belong to the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). In addition to that, the Meetingsnet.com, a website meant for publishing Web site Organization group has a link that can facilitate access to the trade association that focuses on medical market planners. The sources for the market include the direct information form other preceding associations
It is estimated that there at least 150 different trade unions or labor unions. Which
when combined represent a very large number of members who identify themselves with the unions? The market is a vast one and is characterized with that holds numerous regional conventions and national conventions. Are two critical factors including determination of the location site, reasonably law room rate as well as well as hotels rooms? The meetings are normal held in a national/regional conventions, national/regional conferences, and executive committees. The above markets segments will continue to avail a lot of revenue to the hospital industry in an indirect manner and a direct manner as well. SMERFs are totally different from corporate group business and associations in that they have a budget that is very limited and have date flexibility. Despite their limited budget, every hotel sales professional understands and appreciates the fact that SMERFs provide a suitable market segment that ca n be used to fill off-season periods. However, there is still steep completion brought about by the nature the buyer driven economy. The competition for a high-end and multiple service incentive market is conspicuous although it is mostly limited to the resort facilities at the highest end. Most hotels provided a wide range meeting facilities and rooms. A good number of hotels have been successful in developing at least one of these market segments.
The requirements for SMERF and how hotels can maintain them
Just like other market segments SMREF has specific market requirements that ensure it is successfully implemented. The hotels after implementing such requirements the hotels have to ensure that they maintain these requirements.
There are various factors that should fulfill before a hotel or a destination can be able to exploit this market segment. Hotel require adequate infrastructure in order to provide quality services in to the target group (Buttle and Bowie, 2004). First hotels need to develop accommodation rooms to provide boarding facilities for the attendees coming with the various groups to the destination. The hotels also need to develop specific facilities that meet the requirements of their target groups. For instance hotels targeting business groups should develop conferences holes and provide conferences facilities. Every market segment has unique requirements and the hotel strive to provide this. The hotels also need to issue competitive prices to attract a large following of attendees. The hotels further need to identify the lowest months of the year and focus attention to the most apparent characteristics of the period in order to prepare for the tough periods. Every period has defferent needs and therefore the periods have different business driving force. Other than maintaining the old customers, the hotels need to attract new or more customers and thus increases it sales. This can only be achieved by employing sales managers charged with a responsibility of getting new customers to the hotel.
How hotels can maintain the requirements
To remain competitive there is need for the hotels to maintain the required standards. Hotels can conduct continue evaluation of the conditions of to determine their conditions. Evaluation should identify facilities that are damaged and ensure they are repaired on time. Hotels should keep generating knowledge and hiring employee with latest knowledge concerning the markets in this segment to ensure that special efforts are maintained in line with tending to the unique requirements or needs of every category of customers on this. Provision of discounts and other incentives to ensure that customers are lure away from client through competitive price. The hotel can ensure that the unique service are provided to the customers consistently give the satisfaction the need by ensuring it employs manager that can manage the available facilities.
In order to keep attracting new customers in addition to maintaining the old ones hotels should attract and maintain a sales manager who is productive. Various tactics can be used to realize this and they include developing and implementing fresh performance-based sales quotas motivation programs such as a reward of a leased automobile for a year; training managers through the use of external professional trainers to improve the skills of the sales managers; and hiring adequately qualified managers (Golden-Romero, 2007).
Hotels can also make use of an ambassador program. The intention of such a program is to increase the sales team by making use of part-time sales workers and volunteers who have extraordinary characteristics and capability required to help enhance market share. These randomly placed ambassadors complement but don’t take the place of full-time personnel. The ambassador program makes use of sales executives who have retired and Ruppies who are willing to leave in different new places to promote the hotel to potential SMERFs. In return for their labors the “ambassadors” will have the privilege of accessing room credits, restaurant vouchers and other facilities and benefits at the hotel.
The primary labors of the ambassadors are to call on travel agents, conference planners and business travel planners and other people that the regular sales team rarely reaches. They will hand out promotional material and sales texts to the above agents and urge them to clear any doubts. They will give the various prospects with a code number or other identification as supplied by the hotel so that the ambassadors can be credited with business they’ve been able to send to the hotel.
An ambassadors program can work for a huge hotel or resort and form a chain of hotels. The more actually widespread the ambassadors are, the more likely that new business can be instituted and outside your normal trading areas. Just imagine: a case where in certain weekday, you witnessed a situation where by a number of ambassadors in most parts of the nation undertaking the duty of selling to travel agents, planners of meetings and also to corporate representatives.
Three trends emerging
Market trends are normally dynamic changing from time to time due to various reasons or circumstances. The changes or tends can be classified into social-political trends, environmental trends, economic trends technological trends. The tour and travel market has undergone numerous changes to become what it is. New trend are created daily and greatly influence the tourism and travel industry greatly.
Economically various economic trends are emerging and they may have a profound effect on the SMERFs. Increased capital investment in different places world is likely to encourage the SMERFs. New companies and individuals are investing in tourism facilities, resorts, and hotels resorts and others. Investors can be able to invest specific facilities in order to meet the intrinsic needs of the SMERFs.
Developed tourism destination was able to develop due to availability of capital investment that facilitated the development of facilities to compliment the availability of tourist attractions in these places. In current emmerging markets of the world, investors have increased their funding of various tourism oriented projects. Rich people and poor consumers have been encouraged to come together and participate in the development and creation of integrated resorts which contain a combination of entertainment facilities, casinos, hotels, theme parks and convention centers.
Economical uncertainties and economical melt down such as the recent economic crush that was brought about by the mortgage failure at Wall Street in America also influence the ability of individuals taking part in this SMERF and as a result the hotels miss out on revenue. The willingness of people to take part may also be undermined by terrorism activities which make people feel unsafe.
One of the greatest drivers in of change in the Hotel industry is technological tends. Technology is highly dynamic and keeps improving as the old previous developments become obsolete. Various technological facilities provided by hotel can act as an incentive attracting customers to the hotel which in turn leads to increased sales and increased profits (Golden-Romero, 2007).
Technology has further improved transport and it has become extremely easy to move from one place to another. Travel can be done both by air, water and land through vehicles or trains. Through the improved ease of mobility hotels are able to benefit from SMERFs travelling from distant places for to attend functions such as conference, sports or games, and vacations.
Technology has further improved the ease with which hotel manages or sales teams can communicate to their customers and inform them of the available facilities and any offers available. Communication can be done through print media, television or on the internet through websites announcing to potential customers availability of SMERF facilities.
With the use of technology the customer can also make arrangements for accommodation while still at home. This can be done by a simple phone call or by going to the hotels website and booking accommodation. The customers can also use planners association to get booked into the best hotel with the best facilities.
Environmental trends are also a very critical factor that hoteliers have to observe in order to avoid finding themselves at the wrong side of the law. The hotel industry has develop to be more high-tech and environmentally friendly at the same time. The various niches that hotels occupy are in ecological sensitive places such as costal places, place of cultural heritage and natural diversity.
The environmental problems experienced in the world today have encouraged various governments to come up with laws and regulation to guide how people and business relate with the environment. Hotels are producing a lot of human waste and sewerage which have very negative effects on the environment. The hotel management should prepare for proper management of such waste whenever a large number of customers are expected to avoid length law suits on accounts of environmental pollution and degradation.
SMERF market is a highly productive market that hotel sales managers should seek to exploit to maximize their revenue. The term SMERF represents acronyms for the markets under this market segments namely Social groups markets, Military groups markets, Educational groups markets, Religion groups markets and Fraternal groups markets. These markets have varied characteristics different requirements and different sources. Benefiting from the exploitation of this segment require that a hotel installs the facilities that the markets and this segment require. A hotel can special in one market or more than one. The requirement of that market should be met and maintained to ensure a there is a continuous stream of customers. The performance of the hotels under any kind of market segment that the management takes is also considerably influenced from various trends taking place within the hotels environment. However, whatever the circumstance SMERF market segment give hotel managers an opportunity to generate income during off-season the same way they would have done during the high seasons.