‘Hoteliers will like what I say next: If you’re a buyer and you like the current climate, lock in future- year contracts now and strongly consider multiyear deals.’
Stephen Guth: Buyers will have to do ‘a little more asking and a little more work’ to get the same recession-time deals.
Cookie Walner: Arm yourself with market research and
‘watch for reports on trends in target areas.’
providers” of properties that are appropriate for meetings and events, Heston said. Organizations that similarly want to begin leveraging their meetings expenditures with their travel programs should begin with broad strokes. “I say start with your major transient hotel cities; the odds
are good that is where a lot of your meetings are being held,” Heston said, adding that large charges placed on employees’ corporate credit cards and procurement cards can indicate the hotel was used for a meeting. Once you’ve identified what transient hotels are being
used by employees for meetings, “combine these two oppor- tunities into one solution for your company,” Heston said.
“Work with the hotels individually at first versus the chain approach. We found that a much more successful formula, and it really helped build out our business case. It does take a while, but it is worth the pain in the long run.” If your organization isn’t moving toward a procurement-
driven approach to sourcing meetings, it’s making a mistake, Guth said. Internal stakeholders should understand the importance of competitively bidding out meetings in advance and keeping their options open in terms of dates and loca- tions. Consider implementing a future meeting “pipeline” report, and using standard forms for requests for proposal and contract templates. “If you don’t have those things,” Guth said, “you’ll be stepping over dollars to pick up pennies.”
78 PCMA CONVENE SEPTEMBER 2012
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS If there is any silver lining to the Great Recession, it’s that there was a renewed focus on relationship building during the downturn. It is in both parties’ interests to work toward a win-win result in negotiations — a point, Guth said, that was sometimes forgotten in the heyday of the seller’s market four years ago. “One thing that I’m hoping doesn’t return to pre-recession
levels is some of the customer attitudes demonstrated by cer- tain hoteliers,” he said. “There was a sense back then groups should have been grateful for even being able to do business with certain flags. For example, I remember hotels pushing for zero slippage, which drove planners to under-book their blocks. When hotels figured that out, they punished those planners by charging rack rate when the groups exceeded their blocks. It got vicious and nasty. Groups treated hotels well during the downturn, and I’m hoping that hoteliers remember that this time around and that civility prevails.” Caesars Entertainment is one hotelier that gets it, accord-
ing to Allen. “If parties on each side of the negotiation understand what’s important to the other, and work towards something that is mutually beneficial, that’s when you forge real and lasting partnerships,” she said. “I guess that’s not a trend or something ‘new,’ but it’s something that’s become more important over the last several years.” As a result, Allen said, Caesars Entertainment has reorganized its meetings