A meeting planner’s most time-consuming priority is finding a meeting venue with the right space and rooms, at the right price, in the right destination.
From researching cities, to sending out RFPs, to collecting responses, to visiting properties for site inspections, to creating a short list, to negotiations…it’s easy to see why choosing an event site can take months. Even a year!
Why is the process so time-consuming? Is it simply because this is how it’s always been done? Are there ways to make site selection shorter or simpler?
Here are the real reasons why discovering the right venue takes so damn long:
Not Enough Tools to Dig Through Too Many Options
Every meeting is different. Each group requires a unique combination of rooms and event space. What works for one group, won’t work for another. And, at the end of the day, there are several destinations and an overwhelming number of meeting venues that could be a good fit. But, how can meeting planners find them, then whittle down to a realistic number?
Right now, meeting planners are left with Google searches or relying on meeting venue finders and directories that fall short of producing a list of hotels relevant to their actual meeting needs. Or, if they’re lucky or are a large enough customer, they’re working with a Global Sales Organization (GSO) at one of the major hotel brands. However, surprisingly even those GSO’s don’t have access to the critical information that would help you make an informed decision.
OTAs Are Mostly Useless to Meeting Planners
Travelers have long loved OTAs for conveniently showing many hotel options in one place and their room rates side-by-side. Too bad meeting planners can’t take advantage of that. While OTAs can sell a block of rooms, the maximum available is 9 rooms at the same rate. Planners who need a larger block of rooms are out of luck. Plus, with the hotel industry pushing initiatives to book direct, the rates on OTAs tend to be higher than what the hotels can offer directly.
Hotels Don’t Post Future Room Rates
Even if you were to use OTAs or the hotel websites to gauge likely prices for your group, you’ll only find rates for the near future. But, what if you want to research rates for further out, like for an event two or three years away? Now that most new hotels are being built with minimal meeting space, it’s more vital than ever for meeting planners to lock down their venues several years in advance.
THE OLD SOLUTION
Contacting as Many Venues As Possible
What are you left to do? Contact hotel after hotel, hoping to find one with your availability and within your budget. Or, fan out your RFP as widely as possible (even to properties that aren’t a good fit to begin with), hoping that it lands in the right hands. No wonder site selection gets so overwhelming and long-winded.
Today’s market, when hotels are enjoying high occupancies, will leave you calling a ton of hotels, receiving a flurry of responses, and finding that almost half don’t meet your budget or dates. The rest of your time is spent whittling down the long list of properties left over using whatever other criteria is important to you and your group.
See Group Rates and Availability Before Sending Out RFPs
Previous group rate data has now emerged as a meeting planner’s saving grace, allowing planners to easily gauge pricing before contacting hotels.
Today’s new tools resemble Zillow, which gives home buyers the chance to see pricing upfront, instead of leaning on a broker to do all the cost research for them.
For instance, a tool like GroupSync leverages hotel and group data to show you rates, weather patterns, distance from nearest airport, and availability of rooms and meeting space. This means you can narrow in on a short list of destinations and meeting venues before sending out your RFP.
In other words, you’re only sending out an RFP to a small, concentrated group of destinations and hotels that match your needs from the beginning.
According to our studies, this upfront information can easily cut your site search time down from weeks to hours, giving you more time to tackle other priorities on your planning list.
Want to see how GroupSync can narrow in on the right venue for each of your events?
See how a once-skeptical association meeting planner uncovered a perfect venue space and even better room rates when he finally partnered with Groups360.