Here are some tips on how meeting planners can save money on hotel guest rooms and meeting space. Click here to add your own tips, or to edit any of these.
- Leave the rate alone. In a sellers market like this, hotels are reluctant to budge on the room rate because that is where the biggest profit comes from. If you leave the rate alone, hoteliers may be more willing to give concessions in other areas—ancillary fees (resort fees, internet fees etc), comp rooms, additional staff rated rooms, airport transfers, even food and beverage. If you push too hard on rate, you probably won’t get the other concessions, and you may not even get the rooms, period.
- Avoid . Knowing your history is also paramount in avoiding attrition costs. If you know how many rooms you typically use, you’ll be less prone to make room block promises you can’t keep. Some planners are ultra-conservative with their blocks: that’s a surefire way to avoid attrition, but then you run into the risk of not having enough rooms if attendance is high.
- Know the total value of your meeting. When negotiating for hotel rooms, planners should come armed with data on how much the group spends in total, not just on space, rooms, and food and beverage. Try to get historical data on how much the group spends in hotel restaurants, bars, spa, golf, Internet usage, gift shops—in other words, track every dollar spent. This will, of course, require the assistance of hoteliers, but planners should request this information for future use. It will give the hotel a better picture of how much your business is really worth and planners more bargaining power.
- Second-tiers and beyond. Moving down market to second and third-tier destinations will usually result in more availability and better room rates, depending on the city. In general, the lower the demand, the lower the rates. It may also be easier to negotiate meeting space at convention centers in second tiers.
- Use universities. If there are no sleeping rooms involved, universities are an inexpensive alternative for meeting space. Many allow groups to rent out space for smaller meetings; but you do have to provide your own food and beverage.
- Multi-year deals. Planners can negotiate better deals on hotel rooms if they book multiple meetings at a hotel over a period of years. Some planners found that hoteliers who didn’t budge on room rates for a single meeting commitment, did if the planner booked two or more meetings at a time. Signing long-term agreements with contractors and vendors is another way to save money over time.
- Be flexible on dates/patterns. In a seller’s market, deal can be found in top tier cities by simply being flexible on dates and patterns. Filling holes in a hotel’s calendar will give you more negotiating leverage; even changing your day of week patterns can result in lower rates.
- Cap future costs. For meeting booked several years out, consider negotiating a rate cap, something like, room rate increases should be tied to inflation, but can go no higher per year than say 5 percent.
- Research your hotel suppliers. Is there any competition? How busy is the market? Are you in high, low, or mid-season? How many years has the supplier been in business?
- Research the rack rates as well as group rates. Call the toll-free line or reservations desk of the property or chain. This way you will know the "worst case" pricing.
- Always give conservative room blocks. If you block too many rooms, you will end up paying for them.
- Ask for a cash discount for on-site payment of your bill.
- Learn the tax laws for both your business location and the location of your event. You could be eligible for tax breaks that you aren't claiming.
- Negotiate sliding-scale rates with hotels.
- Negotiate no deposit--or at least that the deposit will be placed in an interest-bearing account.
- Try to barter for the costs of your smaller meetings, and for portions of your large meetings.
Ask for everything and anything that you want right up front, including -1:30 or 1:40 comp rates
-early check-in times
-late checkout times
-complimentary coffee and tea in the rooms
-complimentary meeting space, rehearsal space, setup/take-down
-no package-receiving charges
-continental breakfast in the meeting room
-free local calls
-free office space
-free or reduced parking for VIPs and staff
-free foot massages for staff
-health club access or an aerobics instructor for a health break
-late cutoff dates
-reduced room rates for speakers
-reduced room rates for staff
-upgrades for VIPs and staff
-welcome gifts and notes
-a specific amount of electricity for your event to be underwritten by the venue
Sources: Jason Eggleston, operations manager, meeting logistics, American Society of Microbiology, Washington, D.C.; Barbara Dunlavey, CMP, CAE, executive director, Biomedical Engineering Society, Landover, Md., Vicky Betzig, CMP, founder, Meetings Industry Consulting, Brookfield, Wisc.; Christine Simpson, CMP, meeting planner, Gas Processors Association, Tulsa, Okla.; Gary Rosenberg, CMP, partner, Rosenberg and Risinger, Culver City, Calif.; Sandy Biback, CMP CMM Imagination+ Meeting Planners Inc.
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