Meeting planners getting Web-wise

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According to this press release, planners are less likely than they used to be to select sites by visiting sites, distributing RFPs and signing contracts. "Three years of economic downturn put the brakes on corporate travel in 2000 but this year, when meeting planners forecast a four percent budget increase (MPI FutureWatch 2004 survey), the booking environment has changed. Face-to-face conference sales are fast being replaced by Internet-based decisions as meeting planners move their group business to the Internet."

One example they use is IBM, which has placed stringent restrictions on employee travel and off-site functions, and cut its conference planning teams by 50 percent since 2002. Companies are starting to look at outsourcing event bidding, turning to companies like Conferon and HelmsBriscoe which use Internet technology to distribute RFPs and automate group reservations. "Other corporations continue to manage their conference planning in-house but are partnering with online group event specialists for greater efficiency. Additionally, some buying companies now regard off-site meetings as a procurement item requiring a number of standardized bids from prospective conference properties before they fund the activity, which is driving even more planners to online RFP distribution companies."

The press release offers a look at how some venues are coping with the brave new world. Hoteliers, how are you addressing the increasing Internet-based conference sales trend?

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