Site-Seeing Online, Part 2

This is the second in my two-part column on online site selection. For Part 1, see January 2000 CMI, page 49.

MeetingPath This database covers six New England states and represents a collaboration among 21 regional CVBs.

* Hotel and Meeting Facility Database--MeetingPath lists 500 facilities with details on meeting room specs, floor plans, menus, Web links, and contacts. An extensive database of 5,000 other suppliers is also included.

* Filtering--Filters include facility category (hotel, inn, conference center, etc.), location, sleeping rooms, meeting rooms (and capacity of largest), and exhibit space.

* RFP--An extensive form requests contact information, meeting information, response preference, sleeping room block, optional meeting/banquet requirements, optional exhibit information, and meeting history. These leads go directly to the appropriate CVBs, which post them to their members. The RFPs can be archived and retrieved later.

* Hot Dates/Rates/Space--This site has one of the most useful sections on the Web. The STARdates section lists only short-term dates (12 weeks or less). Users choose the region and the specific week. Once these selections are made, a substantial list of hotels comes up, with day-by-day inventories of sleeping room availability.

PlanSoft * Hotel and Meeting Facility Database--PlanSoft has one of the largest facility databases on the Web and the most complete meeting information. Funded by several meeting industry organizations and hotel chains, PlanSoft estimates it will list 22,000 sites by this spring, including many outside North America. Facility information includes main phone/fax, sales phone/fax, Web site, number and type of sleeping rooms, proximity to convention center and airport, staff directory with phone/fax/e-mail, and complete meeting space specifications. Enhanced listings give up to 40 photos, panoramic views of meeting space, scalable floor plans, and maps. A searchable supplier database has more than 15,000 vendors.

* Filtering--Search by facility name, metro area, region, city, state, country, number of guest rooms, size of largest/second largest meeting space, exhibit space, ceiling height, special rates, hotel chain, facility type, facility location, and climate.

* RFP--PlanSoft requests a group profile, contact information, dates, room block information, and multiple reply and action options. The RFP can be archived, retrieved, and copied for future meetings.

* Hot Dates/Rates/Space-- PlanSoft recently added a "Great Rates" section, searchable by date and rate.

* Additional Features--PlanSoft offers extensive archives of articles, in cooperation with Adams Business Media (publisher of CMI).

Site Search 2000 * Hotel and Meeting Facility Database--This site lists 2,200 properties, mostly in North America, and plans to expand into the Caribbean and Mexico, bringing the total to 5,000 listings by the end of this year.

* RFP--RFPs are faxed to all sites with matching criteria. A follow-up call is made to the hotels to ensure that the RFP has been acted on. Automatic archiving allows the online RFP to be retrieved and used again.

* Hot Dates/Rates/Space--Search by date, number of rooms, preferred rates, and largest meeting room.

SmartRFP * Hotel and Meeting Facility Database--None

* RFP--An online lead-collection service for a site selection business, this site claims a 24- to 48-hour response time to return proposals, from which the user negotiates the final contract with the facility. Online RFPs include contact information, dates, rates, event title, sleeping rooms, region, property type, brand preference, amenities, function space needed, and group history.

* Hot Dates/Rates/Space--N/A

StarCite * Hotel and Meeting Facility Database--10,000 meeting properties and 50,000 suppliers are listed.

* Filtering--This new site has multilevel filtering capabilities but is not as extensive as PlanSoft or EventSource. It can be customized at no charge, allowing users to list preferred vendors and event history. ROI and vendor tracking are strong components.

* RFP--With the "RFP Command Center," users have significant flexibility on how RFPs are processed.

* Hot Dates/Rates/Space--Offered

* Additional Features--An online auction allows StarCite to send RFPs to a maximum of eight bidders and to arrange a day and time for a real-time auction. Buyers can then compare various suppliers' bids, which are displayed in a Matrix View on their monitors. Buyers can make comments and ask questions throughout the auction, but they must choose one of the eight bidders at the auction's end.

1. Hotel and Meeting Facility Database--The more comprehensive the database, the better. The biggest sites have more than 10,000 meeting facility listings.

2. Filtering--The more filtering capability, the better. If you want a four-star hotel with 800 sleeping rooms and 10,000 square feet of meeting space, with a business center and golf, you need a site that can sort by these criteria.

3. RFP--Some sites allow you to fill out a single request form and send it to selected hotels electronically. Others are online forms to generate leads for a third-party firm. Still others distribute leads directly to the hotels or CVB. A few let you save your RFP for future use.

4. Hot Dates/Rates/Space--Web sites are increasingly being used to broadcast rapidly changing hotel inventory, but they can vary considerably in how effectively they do so.