I Recently Moderated a panel and roundtable discussion for The Krisam Group's first Executive Summit, held September 7-10 in Las Vegas (for more, see page 9). The theme, which grew out of pre-conference surveys of attendees (Krisam's hotel members and meeting executive customers) was “The Seller's Market: Honest, Up-Front Advice From Both Sides on, , & Communication.” The message from that research: There's a serious communication breakdown, for a variety of reasons.
For one, attendees said, electronic requests for proposal have cut out the process of getting to know the planner and his or her specific needs. Hotel salespeople are deluged with electronic paperwork, most of which will never result in business. Independent planners are asked to spend ridiculous amounts of time preparing RFPs for companies when they have a slim chance of getting the job. Everyone agreed that there's been a backlash to choosing e-mail over picking up the phone. E-RFPs are a good tool if used properly — but often they are not.
Honesty was another theme woven throughout the morning's discussion. As a result of the seller's market, many planners feel that hotels are not being up front with them when they refuse a piece of business. Rather than picking up the phone and trying to make things work by tweaking the request a bit — maybe slightly changing the pattern or adding more F&B — they're just refusing the business. Often, hotels are holding out for more lucrative individual travel business, but they are not explaining to planners why this is essential for the hotel to meet its numbers. Planners need more education and honest information about hotel revenue management. They need to understand how their hotel salespeople report up to the hotel's management and ownership — just as they do. And sometimes, their business just isn't good enough, period.
On both sides, it was clear that everyone craved more honesty and thoughtful communication. There are repercussions to doing everything electronically — to not having the chance to look someone in the eye and know there's a bond of trust. We're still in the relationship business — and that morning proved it.
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