The End of the RFP: Is the RFP Process for Day Meetings History?

By John Arenas Chief Executive Officer, Worktopia | October 28, 2008

Until now, customers seeking short lead time meetings have had to fax, phone and email and then wait for manual responses to RFPs. But planners increasingly want the freedom to book meeting space, catering, audio visual and guest rooms for small groups on the Internet. For hotels, letting customers view live proposals and book small meetings on-line can drive market share and customer satisfaction, while reducing administration, sales and marketing costs. John Arenas provides tips on how to offer your availability of free-to-sell, inventory directly to buyers 24 hours a day, seven days a week for incremental revenue. RFP. RIP?.

Is the RFP Process for Day Meetings History?

Is it possible that the RFP, familiar as a favorite old pair of shoes, may soon have walked its last mile? Before we get too nostalgic and maybe fearful at the passing of an era of people-doing-business-with-people, let's consider what can be gained by hotels, planners and customers in bringing booking of small corporate groups on-line.

It wasn't so long ago that hotels received letters in the mail such as the following: "Dear Sir or Madame, I should like to reserve a guest room at your hotel for the second week of June this year. Kindly reply, at your earliest convenience, with your room rates and availability". Imagine trying to sell room-nights with a process like that today.

Unfortunately, that's the kind of process that most meeting planners still use for arranging day-meetings and small corporate events. Although dressed up in email, voicemail or electronic RFP submissions, the basic process is unchanged. Planners must call or write to hotels, asking them to kindly respond with rates and availability on preferred dates, and then hope for a timely reply. Not to mention having to repeat this archaic process with several properties at a time for each meeting. How can this be true in the age of instant-everything? Although most large, complex meetings will always require the intense human interaction associated with the RFP submission process, requests for smaller meetings continue to be processed with the same time-consuming RFP process, which is simply not an efficient way for a sales and catering team to respond.

That's all about to change for the meetings industry, where 2/3 of all meetings are for under 50 participants. According to a recent PhocusWright, Inc. white paper entitled "Groups and Meeting Market Redefined", the on-line marketplace for procuring small meetings is finally coming of age. With new market entrants, advances in technology within the industry, and dissatisfaction with business as usual, hotels and planners are coming together and a new, online marketplace is being formed. Just ask HEDNA (The Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association), a non profit trade association that is charting a course for on-line collaboration among hotels, technology vendors, meeting planners, on-line agencies and global distribution channels. According to Edward Perry, Director of eCommerce for World Hotels and chairman of the HEDNA subcommittee on Groups and Meetings, "We envision a community that has integrated inventory and instant availability access from the supplier to allow end-consumer, travel agents and meeting planners to shop their properties on a 24/7 basis." Evidence of this new marketplace can be seen in the recent launch of on-line meeting booking initiatives at Hilton, Starwood and Hyatt, along with new services that automate booking for small meetings like the collaboration among Sabre, Worktopia, Travelocity and Groople to give planners the power to book room blocks, meeting space, catering and equipment all in a single online session.

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