Elite Meetings International is reporting a big jump in the number of buyers using its SpeedRFP electronic request for proposal system. In the past 12 months its network of planners and other buyers has grown by more than 38,000 to over 69,000. Next month at IMEX America (October 15–17 in Las Vegas), the company will officially launch its new SpeedRFP Network, a portal where planners can access more than 10,000 hotels. 

SpeedRFP launched in 2010, taking a cue from a technology that many of us use on a regular basis—PayPal. The Santa Barbara, Calif.–based company wanted to come up with a meeting e-RFP solution that was cloud-based and simple to use, like PayPal is for making and receiving payments.  

At present, users send RFPs through “SpeedRFP-enabled” Web sites by clicking on a SpeedRFP icon. Once the planner registers and creates an account, his or her information—including RFPs sent, received, and in progress—is saved and stored on the cloud. “Instead of having to have to go in and rekey the data again, it is sitting there waiting for them on the next SpeedRFP enabled Web site,” says Kelly Foy, CEO of Elite Meetings. The service is free to planners.

Reponses from meeting venues come back to the cloud—stored in one central location accessible from anywhere. Planners can also message back and forth with hoteliers through the system.

Currently, there are more than 300 Web sites for hotels, hotel chains, convention and visitors bureaus, conference centers, and hotel management companies that are SpeedRFP enabled, providing access to more than 4,000 hotels and resorts. Most of the hotels are independent properties or part of smaller chains such as Dolce Hotels & Resorts, but Foy says the company is in talks with some major chains. The latest group to join is the 15-property MGM Resorts International. Mike Dominguez, senior vice president of sales at MGM Resorts, said SpeedRFP represents “something more than just an efficient e-RFP technology. We also see it as a valuable marketing tool that places MGM in front of high-quality, active buyers.”

Elite Meetings reports that in the last 12 months, SpeedRFP transmitted more than 43,000 RFPs—accounting for more than 3 million room nights—and that bookings through the system totaled over $100 million in revenue.

The soon-to-launch SpeedRFP Network is a Web-based portal that allows buyers to access more than 10,000 hotels worldwide as well as send and manage RFPs. It is now in beta testing with an official launch expected in October.


Seven-Hotel Limit

Responding to hoteliers’ concerns about the increasing volume of e-RFPs, SpeedRFP encourages planners to send no more than seven for any meeting. If they try to send an RFP to an 8th property, a warning pops up and then redirects them to an article explaining why it doesn’t make sense to send a high number of RFPs. “That’s a big issue,” says Foy. “On some of the portals out there, meeting planners will send one business opportunity to 40 hotels.” Considering it takes at least 30 minutes to respond to one RFP, that’s a lot of work—on both sides of the equation. When the new SpeedRFP Network launches, the limit will be five RFPs.

The SpeedRFP system has three different forms, one for meetings, one for special events, and one for weddings. The forms have mandatory fields, but are not too complicated, Foy says. “We have interviewed planners for the past three years now asking them how much information they want to provide and what they feel is a complete RFP,” he says. “Then we asked the hotels, ‘how much information do you need? What is a complete RFP for you?’ The result is the form we have up now.” All forms are APEX (Accepted Practices Exchange) compliant.

The service is free to meeting planners. The only cost is to hoteliers and others who pay an annual licensing fee to put the SpeedRFP technology on their Web sites.