If you are in a waiting mode with your meetings right now, you are missing out on one of the most prime opportunities of the year to squeeze the "best deal" out of almost any hotel location.
Why? Because it's year end! Hotel's General Managers are working hard to make year end revenue goals, and the sales rep you are working with, most likely gets a bonus in some fashion on how many contracts or rooms they book each year. They need those year end contracts to meet bonus in many instances.
If your #1 goal is to deliver member value, you are missing the boat by not leveraging the hotel and sales rep's motivation to close contracts by year end. If there is a time the hotel will say "YES" to the things you need to maximize attendance, the last month of the year is it! And guess what...when they say yes to the things you really need, that creates member value by making your meeting more exciting or more affordable for members to attend.
Here are a few things that I feel have worked well for MTI in getting some amazing deals and partnerships with hotels:
Use a Third Party for Site Selection and Contract Negotiations
With so many venues available, I feel it's a must for meeting planners to use a third party, or the local CVB to assist in finding the right venue and negotiate the contract with the final choice. First, it doesn't cost the association a dime to use those services. Secondly, if you use the right one, they provide you an easy-to-read spreadsheet for you to quickly make a short list for site visits. Third, you leverage the amount of business they have on the books with hotels as well. Think about it, if a hotel upsets one association meeting planner, they may lose one 400 room night event...upset a third party and you could lose thousands of room nights from the many clients they represent.
Pick the Hotel You Want and Tell Them It's Their's to Lose
Know the F & B Spending and Value of Your Ancillary Member Spending
This is a biggie for any association. Hotels want associations to come who bring not just room rate revenue, but spa, bar, food, and group activity revenue. Share with them your need to work on a rate that helps you maximize your attendance; that will maximize their food & beverage and ancillary attendee spending. The more numbers you can put to that, so you can let them know the other types of revenue your group will bring to the hotel, the better rates you can command.
In the art of negotiations, everyone wants to feel like they gained something, or didn't give away their best hand. As a meeting planner, you can't ask and expect everything. You need to be a profitable piece of business for any hotel, or you won't get the first class service you want for your members. When looking at your list of concessions and the rate you are trying to obtain, make sure to know which items you are able to let go of and what is the top end rate you can afford to have for your members. If you are able to let the hotel win on some items, they are more inclined to work with you in other areas, and give you a much better rate.
For me, the goal is to get from the hotel the best set of rate and concessions that help us put the best team on the field to win the game of "maximizing attendance." Sometimes that looks different from venue to venue, but knowing your various meeting revenue streams to the hotel, and how your meeting flow impacts your member's spending habits, can go a long way to getting everything you need to create the maximum member value at your meetings.