Katherine Markham and David Markham
Without question, meeting planners are highly regarded by enthusiastic hotel sales executives who pursue group business. Yet when it comes to inquiries from planners, responses are often lackluster.
The issue of request-for-proposal response was an intense topic of discussion at the April Advisory Council Meeting for ConventionPlanit.com, an online search engine for meeting destinations and hotels.
Why Hotels Don't Respond to RFPs
Why don't properties respond promptly to meeting planner RFPs? Here are some common reasons:
- Hotel sales executives are often inundated with inquiries that need to be qualified, and it is a time-consuming process.
- Histories regarding an organization's previous meetings, or information required in the RFP, are incomplete, complicating the process of verifying room-block and meeting-space requirements.
- The hotel is waiting for an answer from a better piece of business before getting back to the planner. For example, a first-time meeting for which the room block is not prepaid may be trumped by a group with solid evidence of room-block consumption. Meeting space may be tentatively held by a previous group, and the salesperson is waiting for clearance before responding. Or there might be an overage in rooms required on a particular night.
- Some online lead-distribution channels still need someone to log in and qualify the lead. When internal approval of rates is required, delays can occur.
- Events with no room block are redirected to the catering/events department, which can extend response times.
What Planners Can Do
Here are some steps planners can take to improve response time to RFPs:
- Ensure that all information that a property will need is included — preferred dates, number of rooms, number of attendees, overall meeting requirements, verified room block history, etc.
- Do some homework and narrow your search to a short list of qualified properties. Avoid looking as if you are fishing around for rates.
- Create a deadline for the response and a realistic time frame for the decision.
- Indicate how the decision will be made, including the steps properties can anticipate in the process.
- Call the hotel sales department to ask about the status.
What to Look for in a Search Directory
Here are some tips to ensure that the online RFP process works:
- Make sure the search directory is applicable to your specific needs. Search channels often cater to specific markets, such as conventions, small meetings, group tours, or social events.
- Ask how properties are qualified to receive the RFP, how many properties receive it, and what follow-up is provided to ensure that properties respond. Online search directories that provide personalized follow-up will achieve more timely responses and higher response rates.
- Find out if RFP responses come directly back to the planner or are channeled through others first.
- Ask if there is a fee to submit RFPs and if any third party will receive a commission on the business if it is booked through the RFP process.
Katherine Markham, CHME, and David Markham are principals and co-founders of ConventionPlanit.com, a leading commission-free search directory for meeting professionals to find suitable meeting destinations, facilities, and service providers.