With meeting season back in full swing, hotels are busy servicing corporate and association programs while their sales teams are sifting through the requests for proposals for business events set to happen in late 2023 and throughout 2024 and beyond.
Tanna Pearman, meeting broker for Las Vegas-based Meetings Made Easy, handles site selection and contracting for both corporate and association clients, which means her approach to building RFPs focuses on different elements of each meeting to match a given destination and its various hotels.
“Every RFP is unique,” she says. “Some organizations require more concessions, others want to be in a specific destination regardless of the cost, and still others are in a short-term booking situation that requires casting a wide net for offers in a compressed market. Understanding which destinations will and will not work for a given event host and the audience” makes the RFP task manageable.
High Demand for Rooms & Space Means an RFP Must Stand Out
Especially in today’s market, where meetings business is strong versus transient business travel, how can planners make a meeting seem as attractive to hotels as possible in an RFP? “We can never provide too much information,” Pearman notes. “First, include or be prepared to share historical information with salespeople,” even if it means including figures for the 2022 edition of the meeting along with the 2019 edition (because of the hiatus in events during the Covid pandemic.) “Reps need to be prepared to show their managers why their hotel should bid on your piece of business over another one.”
Further, flexibility is key to getting responses from hotels. Pearman says that “the sales reps need to see which of your terms are negotiable” so they can bid on the meeting with some altered terms rather than say "no" to the business—or simply not respond at all.
How long should planners wait for an answer to their RFP from properties? “I used to like allowing seven days on larger RFPs and four or five days on smaller ones,” she adds. “But that was during a time when, if you gave too much lead time, your RFP could get buried. If you had a sense of urgency from the beginning, your RFP stayed active.”
“But now, I'm building in a longer response time but communicating more while waiting for [an answer], particularly if the destination is of high interest to the event host. It’s a sellers’ market these days; hotels have multiple pieces of business to choose from. So, give some time for that information to be managed.”
Even so, planners should not simply sit back and wait once their RFPs go out. With so many hotel sales veterans having left the business during the pandemic, there are a lot of less-experienced reps now working on meetings. In addition to providing quality information in the RFP, Pearman recommends that event organizers take additional action: get on the phone. “Plan on taking the time with reps to explain some of the meeting’s must-haves and areas where things can change a bit if need be. A bit of human interaction can go a long way.”