We spoke with hotel representatives from the major domestic hotel companies about the services they provide for meeting planners wanting to book small — often short lead time — meetings. What follows is a compendium of useful information, including Web sites and phone numbers, that will help you get the job done with minimal stress.

Crowne Plaza Hotels

1-800-MEETING, or call the hotel direct and ask for the Crowne Meetings Director.
http://meetings.sixcontinentshotels.com www.crowneplaza.com

A meeting planner can work with a single contact in the Global Sales department or a meeting specialist at the 1-800-MEETING service center.

When you book your meeting at Crowne Plaza, you can choose one of the following eight complimentary Meeting Options enhancements:

  • 5,000 frequent flyer miles or 20,000 bonus Priority Club® Rewards points
  • Complimentary main meeting room rental
  • Up to 10 complimentary upgrades to deluxe room type
  • Complimentary VIP suite
  • One complimentary guest room for every 25 actualized
  • A.M./P.M. break credit
  • Complimentary welcome reception
  • 10 percent discount on audiovisual

Fairmont Hotels

(800) 441-1414; (866) 662-6060

At the property level, sales representatives handle the smaller group market; at the national sales offices, the sales team is more segmented by market rather than size.

Most packages target smaller meetings; a minimum of 10 rooms is the norm.

AskFairmontFirst is operated by Global Sales Solutions (GSS), a new team within the Fairmont Global Reservation Customer Contact Center. Planners can call (866) 662-6060, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. Group needs will be qualified by the GSS agent and dispatched to the desired destination hotel or hotels. Hotel sales representatives will respond within one hour, based on the destination's hours of operation. The GSS team is composed of senior reservations/sales agents who are bilingual (French and English) and have more than four years of experience selling the Fairmont portfolio.

Hilton Hotels

Hilton Direct (800) 321-3232 (inside the U.S. and Canada)
(972) 701-3700 (inside Mexico and South America)
44-20-7856-8100 (outside North and South America)

Small meetings are handled by the Hilton Direct sales center and site selection service (800 line) in Dallas. Hilton Direct services include one convenient source for site selection of more than 2,400 hotels from the Hilton family (Hilton, Conrad, Doubletree, Embassy, Hampton Inns, Hilton Garden Inns, Homewood Suites, and Scandic hotels).

Hilton promises a fast response to inquiries, usually the same day or next business day. Small meetings also receive special access to group value dates and other special offers in select cities and locations. In some areas, there are teams to handle specific market segments such as corporate, sports teams, and religious groups. Hilton Direct does not charge commissions or fees.

The Hilton Direct Web site offers programs that can assist novice and professional meeting planners. Those programs include group reservation tools (www.hiltondirect.com/tools/toolssection.asp, a private online group page, group code reservations, RAPID for Groups, and a space calculator), checklists (www.hiltondirect.com/CheckLists/CheckLists Section.asp), and a glossary of meeting planning terms. www.hiltondirect.com/Information/InformationSection.asp.

Hilton offers two separate online booking programs:

  • Hilton's HHonors' Event Planning: In addition to offering first-class service and facilities, you can earn bonuses for holding qualifying events at participating HHonors hotels worldwide.

  • Group value dates.

Hyatt Hotels

(800) 543-1818

Designated Hyatt Meeting Connection managers are the one point of sales contact for a small-meeting planner. They will act as a liaison between the hotel operating departments involved and the planner. Meeting Connection managers are trained to ask the right questions about guest room needs, meeting requirements and specifications, catering, transportation details, audiovisual needs, and VIPs. One of the chief responsibilities of a Hyatt Meeting Connection manager is acting as meeting consultant who fills in for the gaps in the experience of a planner who may not plan meetings full time.

Many Hyatt properties commonly bundle a meeting room, refreshment break, and a roll-in or catered luncheon into a small-meeting package, priced per person. Group bookings of 10 or more paid room nights during Hyatt Extra Value Dates can earn a rebate savings of 10 percent through the end of 2003.

Hyatt offers a real-time booking solution and site for small meetings. E-mmediatemeetings.com was specifically designed to address the needs of companies and organizations booking small meetings. The site responds in real time to a planner's request for dates and rates, instantly answering the fundamental questions of availability and price online, 24 hours a day, 7 days week.

E-mmediatemeetings.com uses a booking engine within Hyatt's industry-leading sales automation system: Envision. Hyatt Meeting Connection and Hyatt.com provide facility, destination, and contact information; booking options; and “how to plan a meeting” guides. You can also arrange for a customized Web page for your meeting.

Marriott Hotels

(800) 831-4004

Marriott offers customized packages to service any meeting need. Via the Events & Meetings page on Marriott.com, planners can search venues that best fit their needs (from hotels to conference centers), take advantage of group meeting offerings, and request a proposal or RFP online.

Starwood Hotels

(800) 301-1111

From a national office perspective, smaller meetings of key accounts are given the same, if not more, attention than larger meetings. At the Starwood telesales office, account managers are inside sales executives, and processes are in place to handle large volume and quick turnaround — typical needs of smaller meetings.

The Omaha global sales office (Starwood's telesales unit) is composed of 17 to 20 managers. All of them handle both small and large meetings.

Walt Disney Resorts (Anaheim and Orlando)

At Disneyland Resort, Anaheim:
Sue Romano, (714) 956-6412
Lance Koenig, (714) 956-6524
At Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando:
Megan Dtika, (321) 939-7221

Both the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and the Disneyland Resort in California have teams dedicated to the small-meetings market. While Disney offers the same service and benefits regardless of group size, it offers a host of private theme park event venues that are tailored to small groups and executive conferences. For example, groups of up to 72 can dine in the eerie splendor of The Haunted Mansion. Similar events are available in other Disney attractions.

There are several options for small meetings. The Disneyland Resort offers dinner show packages, such as a performance of the new stage production, “Disney's Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular,” followed by dinner at the Golden Vine Winery.

In Florida, Disney offers an innovative land/sea package that includes a three- or four-night stay at the Walt Disney World Resort with a corresponding Disney Cruise Line sailing to The Bahamas.

Wyndham Hotels

Wyndham Express (888) WYNDHAM; or e-mail Leads@wyndham.com

Wyndham Express is the chain's key small-meeting service, guaranteeing no longer than a 24-hour response time to all meeting requests. Wyndham Express handled more than 16,000 leads in 2002 for meetings of 50 rooms or fewer, and executed more than $40 million in definite small-meetings bookings.

Each hotel has special packages and offers. ValuDays on Wyndham.com is the best vehicle to identify need dates and special rates at hotels for small meetings.

Executive conference managers inside the sales department specialize in the handling of small meetings; and Wyndham Express can quickly find availability at all 160 hotels.