It's RFP Season: Are you ready? Twelve ways to be sure

By John Manderfeld President, Marin Management Inc. | May 06, 2010

Effectively managing requests for proposals (RFPs) is an important process that can get fumbled by even the most capable hotel general managers and sales departments. Since this time of year is "RFP season", now is a good time to review your RFP procedures. Of course, you should be receiving and responding to RFPs throughout the year-but because many travel management organizations plan on a calendar-year schedule, you will receive most RFPs for the upcoming year during July through September.

Travel managers have been using RFPs for years for selecting hotels for group business and volume transient accounts. Ten years ago, they mailed or faxed long forms to be completed and returned. Now, most RFPs are sent by e-mail or posted on RFP Web-sites. RFPs for group travel are sent year-round; and the volume-transient RFPs are usually done once a year.

If your hotel wants business in the group, corporate transient, government or incentive segments, you need to be actively engaged in the RFP process. Here are 12 ways to be sure that you are:

1. Do more than depend on the national sales team. If you are a franchised or other brand-affiliated hotel, don't assume that the franchiser or central sales office will assure that you get all of the RFPs that you should. National sales offices are good at getting RFPs for national and international accounts, but you likely have many large regional, state and local prospects that use an RFP process for their bulk travel management. These prospects may be entirely off the radar screen of your national sales office.

2. Work effectively with the national sales offices. If you have national sales representation, work closely with them on the RFP processes. Often national sales offices screen RFPs and selectively refer them to only those hotels that they determine should receive them. For example, they may not send a group RFP for 250 rooms to your 200 room hotel because they don't realize that you could share the event with a next-door hotel. Or the national sales office may have internal reasons for preferring to refer business to some hotels and not others.

Be in regular contact with all of your national sales representatives to assure fair and prompt deliveries the RFPs suitable for your hotel. Ask for lists of RFPs that they receive for your location and for your type of hotel in other locations. And fully document those communications for future reference by management and other members of your sales team.

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.