HelmsBriscoe Thinks Big

With laser-like intensity, Roger Helms, president and CEO of site selection firm HelmsBriscoe, outlined his goals for 2000 and beyond at the company's Annual Business Conference in early December: "Ten years from now, your greatest challenge will be managing client demand. You and I know it's already happening," he said to the 700 people gathered at The Venetian in Las Vegas.

An ambitious statement from the head of what is often referred to in the meeting industry as a "10 percenter." But the growth in third-party site selection--particularly in Helms' company--bears out his claims. Only eight years ago, Helms and his partner Bill Briscoe, both ex-hotel execs, booked $25,000 in hotel room nights in their first year of business. In 1999, HB associates, now 206 strong, booked $1 million a day in room nights at 4,300 hotels. The company was the single largest producer of meetings for Las Vegas in 1999, booking 360 programs.

HelmsBriscoe's services appeal to busy corporate executives who don't know how to select a site for an event or don't have time to do exhaustive site searches. HB does the site selection at no charge to the meeting executive, but collects a 10 percent commission from the hotel. "Preferred partner" hotels (which include Hilton, Wyndham, Carlson Hotels Worldwide, Canadian Pacific, Fairmont, Regal, Melia, Delta, and Crowne Plaza) pay 50 percent at time of booking and 50 percent at the time of the meeting, in addition to an annual marketing fee.

Steve Armitage, vice president/managing director of sales for Hilton, said, "We consider HB-ers an extension of our sales team."

An industry panel at the conference featured Fred Kleisner, president and CEO of Wyndham International, Eric Danziger, president and COO of Carlson Hotels Worldwide, which includes Radisson and Regent; Helms; and Adams Business Media President and CEO Mark Adams (publisher of Corporate Meetings & Incentives) --Betsy Bair