Find great hotels in Second Tier Cities or find great hotels near a major city with easy access to downtown. Center city hotels tend to charge higher rates and often there are additional taxes to consider which increase the overall cost with no added value. An added benefit is that a second- or third-tier city may need and want your business more than the most visited cities. Additionally, their cost of doing business is often lower for ancillary items so they pass these savings on to you.
Work with the destination Convention & Visitors Bureau. Ask the CVB for free collateral and discount coupons to area attractions. They may also be able to add value in the form of sponsorship of transportation, promotional mailings, a meal function, airport greeting, tchotchkes, etc.
Consider alternate patterns. Resorts are busiest on weekends and city hotels are busiest mid-week. Find the best pattern for the venue to secure the best rate.
Be flexible! One of the most powerful negotiating tools in this environment is your flexibility with dates, space and city. Even in the tightest market hotels will have holes to fill so openness to suggestions about items such as location, room configuration and date pattern, can save bottom line dollars.
Ensure guests are checked in under your room block to avoid attrition penalties. Organizations are going as far as penalizing attendees for not checking in under the group room block. If an association gets hit with a high bill for attrition, it could force them to lose a substantial amount of money and possibly increase membership rates to compensate for it. This is a good incentive for attendees to book rooms properly.
Have the hotel check your registration list to see if there are members booked outside of the block so you can identify offenders and request credit toward attrition.
Hotels on a regular basis send “Hot dates” to us. They need to fill and usually offer incredible incentives to clients for booking over those needed dates.
Save on meeting room rental by serving food in the room or allowing the hotel to book an evening meal function in that room. Think of every inch in the hotel as real estate and know that revenue is expected to be generated for that space.
Get sponsorship from vendors who add value to your meeting attendees.
Buying in volume can save. Find out what other groups may be ordering for meals to save on preparation and it should also provide a savings. The same may be true for renting furniture, linens or AV. See if other groups are using similar equipment on days prior or following to save on set up or tear down time and fees.
Get multiple bids. Let your hotel salesperson know what other hotels within their competitive set have received your lead. They tend to get highly competitive when they know others are involved in the bidding process. Be clear on your wish list to see who is really listening and wants to “ease your pain”. The bid process will give you hints on attention to detail that make a statement on the projected outcome of your meeting.
Get outside quotes from other vendors. Often an outside contractor may quote a lower rate to get in the door. Outside quotes may be matched to keep the revenue in house and it really provides a smoother flow for your meeting.
Get your speaker’s AV needs in advance and have them sign off on it. Send them an update prior to the meeting to make sure that there are no changes before they land on site.
Purchase supplies and other items on site to cut down on shipping costs. Check with the hotel to see if they provide a meeting planner toolbox with office supply items such as scissors, packing tape, stapler, markers, etc. Consider printing items at the end destination and having the printer deliver them to the hotel. Files can be sent electronicly and collated and ready for your arrival. We always take a portable printer and laptop for last minute meeting needs.
Negotiate important concessions into your contract. Do not assume the hotel is going to offer the same things that you may have received prior. VIP amenities, upgrades to viewed rooms or suites, late check out, staff rooms, etc may be items on your “wish list” that need to be communicated prior to signing a contract. Negotiate for a higher guest room minimum percentage and “comp” room’s ratio.
Make sure that your attorney or legal staff reviews all binding agreements. Most employees are not equipped to deal with contracts, agreements and the host of signed documents necessary to produce a quality meeting. While your meeting planning staff is well versed in protecting your interests, make sure that you have consulted with your legal department or procurement group before signing legally binding documents. The extra step will prevent problems down the road that could cause major roadblocks in producing a successful meeting.
Carefully manage your guarantees for food & beverage. Often, planners or clients will over-guarantee the number of attendees, in effect throwing money away. If you have a solid group history, this can be like gold when it comes to mining the data necessary to figure out how many people will actually be served. It is also important to consider the time and location of the function in determining the appropriate guarantee. And don’t forget, venues always allow for an overset of 3-5%, which should also be taken into account.
Lock in your contract now. Travel costs are rising but meetings are going strong. Work with your planner to do a thorough site selection and lock in your contract now to protect against the projected future increases. Consider multi-year contracts with performance clauses. Hotels would rather have contracts in place than trade for higher room rates closer in so use that to your advantage.
Hold pre and post convention meetings. Meet with the credit manager on a daily basis. Review your reports every morning to make sure there are no surprises.
Call A2Z Meetings & Events to negotiate your contract so you are sure to get the best value with service assurance agreements for your next meeting!