An event planner’s most time-consuming priority is finding a venue with the right space and rooms, at the right price, in the right destination, with the right services.
From researching cities, to sending out RFPs, to collecting responses, to visiting properties for site inspections, to creating a short list of bids, to contract negotiations — it’s easy to see why choosing an event site can take months.
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 long.
Not enough tools to sort through too many options
Every event is different. Each group requires a unique combination of rooms and event space. What works for one group might not work for another. At the end of the day, several destinations and an overwhelming number of meeting venues could all be a good fit. But how can corporate event planners find them and then whittle down options to a realistic number?
Meeting planners have typically looked to Google searches, online travel agencies (OTAs) and venue directories that fall short of producing a list of hotels relevant to the event planner’s actual group needs. Or, if they’re a large enough account, they might work with a global sales organization (GSO) at one of the major hotel brands. Surprisingly enough, even those GSOs don’t have access to the critical information that would help corporate event planners 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 small block of rooms, the maximum available is nine rooms at the same rate. Meeting 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 hotel websites to gauge likely prices for your group, you’ll only find rates for the near future. What if you want to research rates 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 way to source: Contact as many venues as possible
What else can you as an event planner do? Contact hotel after hotel, hoping to find one with 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 it lands in the right hands. No wonder site selection gets so overwhelming and long-winded.
In a market in which hotels enjoy high occupancy rates, you will end up calling a ton of hotels and receiving a flurry of responses only to find that nearly 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.
A more streamlined RFP process
Here’s a novel idea: See group rates and availability before sending out RFPs. Previous group rate data has now emerged as a corporate event planner’s saving grace, allowing meeting planners to easily gauge pricing prior to 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 the cost research for them.
For instance, a tool like GroupSync leverages hotel and group data to show you estimated future hotel rates, weather patterns, distance from the nearest airport, and other features. This means you can narrow in on a short list of destinations and meeting venues before sending out your RFP.
In other words, you only send out an RFP to a small, concentrated group of destinations and hotels that match your needs. No wasted time on your part or on the hotel’s end. 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 event planning list.
Want to see how GroupSync can find 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 partnered with Groups360.