THE NATIONAL BUSINESS TRAVEL ASSOCIATION, which has traditionally focused on transient business travel, is taking another step in establishing its presence in the meeting arena. The Alexandria, Va.-based organization has signed on as the official association partner of the inaugural MICE Executive Congress America 2004, an event for meeting and incentive executives to be held in Miami November 17-19. NBTA also served as a partner for the MICE Executive Congress held earlier this month in Monte Carlo.

According to NBTA spokesman Caleb Tiller, the partnership further demonstrates NBTA's willingness to respond to the needs of its membership. Tiller says that in past NBTA post-convention surveys, “We started seeing a significant number of people indicating they were involved in planning off-site meetings and in selecting destinations for off-site meetings.” Consequently, Tiller says, recent NBTA meeting-related initiatives are “a deliberate effort to respond to member needs.”

Those initiatives have included forming a meetings committee in March 2003, forging an alliance with Meeting Professionals International in August 2003, publishing a white paper on strategic meeting management in March 2004 and a second on hotel and air components of meetings in August 2004, and expanding its meetings-related education at its August 2004 annual meeting.

Meeting e-RFPs Are Next

NBTA's current project is to expand its electronic request for proposal format to include meetings and corporate housing modules. NBTA has created standard RFPs for members to use with a variety of spreadsheet and database programs. NBTA initiated the move to a paperless environment in 1996, and according to Brian Nichols, chairman of the NBTA's hotel committee, NBTA's format has become the standard for the majority of hotels in the industry. The new meetings module is expected to be ready for the 2006 bid season, while the housing module is targeted for 2007.

The process for revising RFPs is complex, Nichols says. The NBTA's new meetings committee will oversee the development of the meeting module in conjunction with the hotel committee. NBTA will consult with buyers and hoteliers during creation of the meetings module. “We need to determine what kind of data needs to be collected, what is realistically deliverable, and what's the best way to ask the questions,” Nichols says. The information eventually will be culled and standardized so that buyers and suppliers only need one standard RFP.

A standard electronic RFP benefits the first-time buyer, he explains. “A standard RFP format will tell them the kinds of things they need to ask for. Even for the experienced travel manager, they know they are looking at a standardized format that has been looked at by a number of industry experts.”