Meeting June 13 to 15 at Québec City's castle-like, 618-room Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, a dozen senior-level planners discussed industry trends and hot topics at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts 2007 Insurance Customer Advisory Board. The conversation covered a range of challenges facing planners in today's seller's market, as well as their efforts to consolidate meeting spend with strategic sourcing. Among the issues attendees said are on their front burner this year:
Planners are receiving so many e-mails from vendors that unless the e-mails come from their global sales representatives or other salespeople they know personally, they will probably delete them. Even then, they prefer to get nonessential communication no more frequently than once every three months. They unanimously asked for BlackBerry-friendly messages and information.
For large incentive programs with long lead times, planners are negotiating multiple-year deals with one or two hotel chains. They like using corporatethat can be applied to any properties or brands within a particular chain. From the hotelier's point of view, “it is not so much about how big the planner's company is, but about how much business they do with our hotel chain,” says Isabel Mahon, director global sales, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Raffles Hotels & Resorts.
Attrition clauses in contracts have been around a long time, but up until a few years ago, planners tended to be given a lot more flexibility, particularly to increase their room blocks. Today, hotel salespeople don't have the same leverage and are not letting planners out of attrition responsibilities. The advisory board attendees noted that this is a direct result of a seller's market — which they also emphasized is cyclical. All said they are looking for win-win solutions.
Planners want contracts to spell out every detail of their meeting costs, so that they have no last-minute surprises or “nickel-and-diming.”
Total Account Management
Four of the 12 Fairmont attendees manage both business and group travel for their companies. These planners prefer to work with national and global hotel sales reps who also handle business and group accounts. At present, consolidation of business and meeting travel is not the industry norm on either the planner or supplier end.
Participating in the 2007 advisory board were Debbie Boschee, CMP, Prudential Financial; Lynne Schueler, Principal Financial Group; Sandy Monkemeyer, Captive Resources; Jan Hennessey, CMP, CMM, Fireman's Fund Insurance Co.; Marla Hannigan, Mutual of Omaha; Rob Gingras, CMP, Cigna; Kent Kawaguchi, Safeco Insurance; Kim DeVillers, Countrywide Financial; Lynn Averill, National Life Group; Michael Burke, CMP, Hanover Insurance Group; Patricia Kerr, CMP, Manulife Financial; and Paul Bisberg, CMP, Hartford Life. Attending from Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Raffles Hotels & Resorts were Chris Cahill, president & COO; Jeff Senior, executive VP of sales; Heather McCrory, VP of sales and distribution; and advisory board organizer Isabel Mahon, director global sales.
Three trends increasingly on the radar of the 12 meeting executives at Fairmont's Insurance Advisory Board:
- Up-to-date room amenities
For today's travelers, whether attending a meeting or on corporate business, a home-away-from-home guest room must have iPod docks, easy Internet access (whether wireless or cable), and high-quality bath products.
- Multicultural awareness
A growing international attendance at insurance and financial services meetings means that planners must be sensitive to cultural differences.
- Fitness on the road
Planners love the Fairmont Fit Program, a perk of Fairmont's President's Club frequent-traveler program, which allows members to type their size information online and then have fitness clothes ready to borrow when they arrive at the hotel. Membership is free.