Dave O'Connor, CMP
President, Meeting Connections Inc. Brasstown, N.C.

Our incentive clients never scaled back their programs so there has been no change in the upscale portion of our client base. I can report that pickup is stronger for association meetings so far this year. Corporate meetings have been timid about booking more than three months out, but we actually are working on a national sales meeting right now for next May. All three segments remain rate-sensitive.

Hotels remain quite flexible and creative in finding ways to add value, as they have been for a couple of years now.

Gregg H. Talley, CAE
President and CEO, Talley Management Group Inc., Mount Royal, N.J.

We have not seen a significant increase in demand. It appears that hotels are hanging tough on rates for 2012 and beyond in anticipation of an upswing. We think that remains to be seen. Hotels are still being aggressive with multiyear deals as they try to lock in future bookings.

John Folks
President, Minding Your Business, Chicago

We have seen an increase in the number of 2010 meeting requests from our clients, and 2011 is pacing ahead of that. While availability is tightening up a bit in some high-demand markets, hotels have continued to be fairly flexible with rate negotiations. We attribute some of that to our many strong, long-term hotel relationships. Yes, they still matter!

Tim Brown
Chief Executive Officer, Meeting Sites Resources Irvine, Calif.

As an organization, we have seen an increase in meeting demand, for both domestic and international meetings. Although hoteliers are pushing for a spike in sleeping room rates and tightening contract terms, the focus of our negotiations remains on adding meeting value, maintaining room-rate integrity, and reducing risk and liability. We evaluate each meeting request/request for proposal based on hotel revenue management criteria and specific meeting goals and objectives. We have a negotiations game plan for each meeting, which includes a custom hotel contract process, addressing all hotel contract components, concessions, hotel fees and surcharges, and performance clauses — ready for signature.

Clearly, the economic recovery is moving at a slow pace and buyers are still looking for better deals and more value. Another factor that is keeping room rates in check is increased inventory, with significant new hotel development in 2009 and 2010.

For more on the current economy’s effect on meetings, see our special report.