Complicated contracts…shorter lead times…a barrage of new technology…a shortage of hotel meeting space…No wonder there’s increasing demand for third-party meeting sourcing to bring relief to event planners – and who would have thought? – conference and convention hotels, who are just as desperate for a professional site selector’s specialized skills throughout the RFP process. Thankfully, a lot more meeting sourcing specialists have entered the business in recent years, but that brings up another challenge: how to select the right person for your group?
Here’s a Few Things to Look For:
1) Clout. The hotel industry is undergoing consolidation and prices are rising, so having someone on your side with market power can help. Sometimes this means simply finding a hotel with space available for the dates that are needed or help in getting the best rates. However, most of the time, it means more.
“It always depends on the specs for the kind of hotels the client is looking for,” said Jerry Rosenthal, CHA a 16 year site selection veteran of ConferenceDirect based in Chicago who recently placed a group in the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago where several attendees arrived by private jet.
That’s why a hotel sourcing professional will take the time to evaluate the complexities of a planner’s needs against current market conditions and use their clout to realistically negotiate for what’s most important. Adds Lori Stickley, CMP, CASE, Senior Director, Global Accounts at HelmsBriscoe: “HelmsBriscoe will not only save the planner time in securing the hotel but assist with the best concessions and contract terms.”
2) Experience. While it’s true that those who work for companies like HelmsBriscoe, Maritz Global Events, HPN Global, ConferenceDirect and other volume buyers like American Express GBT or CWT Global Events may have a leg up on room block negotiation, someone who works on their own and has helped to arranged hundreds of meetings obviously knows a lot more than someone who is just starting out. The meetings industry is still very relationship focused and as we all know, developing solid relationships takes time. Even newer companies that are developing their own sourcing technology like Groups360 have meeting advisors to shepard you through the booking process.
3) Local knowledge. Sometimes selecting the right hotels within cities, within blocks even – can make the difference between positive and negative attendee feedback. If a hotel has a great location, but half the attendees at a group your size have to park on the other side of the river – one person will be blamed, and we know who that is.
4) Integrity. Perhaps this is most important. With so many moving parts going into planning a convention, it is impossible to foresee everything that can happen. A good site selection professional seeks to fill in those blanks with transparency and honesty. For example, most third-parties operate on a traditional 10% travel agency commission on the hotel rooms booked and are certain to let you know. This is information that may possibly be negotiated up front depending on the size of that piece of business and the work involved.