Are you seeing signs of a meetings or incentives market rebound for 2010? What does it look like quarter by quarter? How about for 2011?
We are encouraged by the business base we have been able to garner thus far for 2010 and are seeing significant demand for 2011. There are some meeting planners who are coming to us with larger-than-usual budgets because programs that didn't travel in 2009 are expected to be more robust events for 2010 and 2011 — that's encouraging.
How are you dealing with reduced lead times and shorter booking windows?
From a sales and execution perspective, reduced lead times and shorter booking windows have not caused us great challenges. In fact, more than 50 percent of all of our group business this year has been booked in the year, for the year. The challenge has been with forecasting year-end results. These are the times when you truly wish you had access to a real-life crystal ball!
Are you dealing with different kinds of meeting decision makers, perhaps more third parties? Or people within companies who carry titles other than meeting planner?
We are not seeing a new trend in this regard. I would say that approximately 75 percent of our group business originates through third-party planners.
Will the deals and promotions from 2009 carry into 2010?
We introduced a Group Perks program in 2009 and have extended it for new groups booked in Q1 2010 for selective dates in 2010 and 2011. You can customize your benefits based on the size of your group: Groups with between 45 and 59 room nights can select one benefit; groups with between 60 and 90 room nights can select two benefits; and groups with 91 or more room nights can select three benefits. Benefits include one complimentary room per 35 paid rooms, one complimentary upgrade to a suite per 50 paid rooms, three upgrades to suites at the run-of-house rate, five VIP amenities, a 10 percent discount on food and beverage, a complimentary in-room welcome amenity, a complimentary morning refreshment break and one afternoon break, complimentary continental breakfast for all attendees, a complimentary one-hour welcome reception, and one complimentary staff room and breakfast per 35 paid rooms. Also, there's nofor up to 45 days prior to arrival for all groups of any size. Within 45 days prior to arrival, 10 percent attrition will be allowed.