Venue Sourcing from a Meeting Planner's Perspective
What planners go through to find the perfect hotel
By Andy McNeill CEO, American Meetings, Inc. (AMI) | November 25, 2012
Hoteliers and meeting planners have a symbiotic relationship that with the development of the World Wide Web has become even more complex. Meeting planners face the challenge every day of sourcing properties for exacting clients who demand speed, efficiency and best price, while hoteliers constantly manage room blocks, attrition and hundreds of sales leads at any given time. Both priorities are equally important and timely.
The tried and true hotel selection processes coupled with the invention of web-based site selection software has transformed this landscape providing both opportunity and challenges. Let's review from a meeting planners' perspective providing insight for hoteliers on the meeting planner process in regards to sourcing venues, hotel rooms and meeting space.
A typical morning in a meeting planners life may start with a simple request from a client to find a hotel for a conference of 300 attendees for a 4 day/ 3 night in the Northeast. Believe it or not, this could be the only information provided by a client. No specific date, no city, not hotel type. So begins the step by step process of culling the event specifications from a client. The client for a meeting planner may be an internal employee in a large organization or a private client for a meeting planning firm. It is important to remember that many clients are not experts at sourcing.
Meeting planners quickly become something akin to an investigative reporter pulling information from a reluctant source. Why would the source be reluctant? Well, it can be for several reasons. The client may not have all of the information themselves. Perhaps they know they want it in the first quarter, but are not quite sure of the dates. Maybe, they are still building the financial model on the program, but have not settled on a per night room rate. Or quite often the case, they have not completed formulated the meal function strategy.
All of these examples can prevent a complete and comprehensive rfp being provided to the candidate hotels. An experienced planner will then take the client through a step by step interview of the event to leave no stone unturned. From a meeting planners perspective (a little secret here), the more information they have from the client, the better position for the planner with the hotel. Providing a complete rfp ensure the best initial negotiating position. A good planner will have all the details before they submit an rfp. An inexperienced planner will waste their time, an hotelier's time and their client's time by not doing their homework. This is by far where the experienced planner brings the most value.
Let's take a sneak peek into a planner's client management. One of over 64,000 (May 2011, Bureau of Labor & Statistics), Sarah is your typical meeting planner. A female in her late 30's and in the industry for about a decade, she most likely has upwards of 6-12 clients and manages anywhere from 1 large program annually to over 60 small programs. Now, Sarah has a lot to manage, in addition to her venue sourcing. Though, quite arguably, one of the top three most important aspects of her job, she may be also be responsible for marketing to attendees, registration/website management and extracurricular activities outside the venue.
The Hotel Business Review articles are free to read on a weekly basis, but you must purchase a subscription to access
our library archives. We have more than 5000 best practice articles on hotel management and operations, so our
knowledge bank is an excellent investment! Subscribe today and access the articles in our archives.