As an event planner, I wear many hats, mostly because of a bad hair day (already, I digress…). I manage a number of different areas within the events industry and work to provide exceptional service to my clients and build long lasting positive relationships with my suppliers.
I have planned several large scale travel programs, and I tend to hear the same questions from my clients – the groups who are putting on the events. If you are a planner who hears them too, I’ve found that the following answers do provide clients with clarity. I’m happy to share these with my events industry insiders.
Can you tell me what flight costs are going to be seven, 14 and 21 days before my event?
It is near impossible to predict how much fares will increase even with advance booking. All fares are based on availability at the time of booking. Other factors should also be considered when budgeting for flights; airlines can adjust fare levels based on the marketplace without any notice. For example someone could book a flight 30 days in advance at a low price and two days before your event the airline launches a seat sale and the exact same flight is even lower than the flight that was booked well in advance.
It is recommended to get your flights booked as early as possible, however since there are shorter turnaround times to execute events, this may not be possible. So what do you do to save costs on your flights with tighter turnarounds? One way to save is to sign up with your preferred airline’s meeting and conventions rate. Usually if you have 10 or more flights to book, this is a great way to save on last minute fares. The first fares to book are, of course, the least expensive ones. If you know that your client will be booking flights up until the 11th hour, it might be best to consider signing up for one of these programs.
Why are hotel group rates for guestrooms so high? I could go online myself and find cheaper guestrooms.
This question comes up frequently, and it is very important to know the reason why this can happen so that you are prepared. No matter what city, time of year, and size of group block you are sourcing, you are sure to get this question.
There are many factors as to how hotels price their room rates for groups differently than they do online. Firstly, when a block of rooms are required, the hotel is taking a risk by taking their rooms/meeting space out of inventory for your group. Holding this inventory means that they are not selling to the public and getting a guaranteed sale from online bookings.
You may see rack rates that are lower online, however, when blocking 10 or more rooms you will likely not be able to find these rates in quantities, and the hotels availability can change at any time. A room block guarantees rooms for your guests and that room rates don’t go up in price. Just like airline pricing – you may find a great deal one day, and then two weeks later the price has doubled and there are only two seats left.
Also, consider the value you are getting when you sign a contract with your negotiated concessions such as complimentary suite upgrades, no room rental fees for function space, discounts off A/V, food and beverage and much more. Plus, the hotel provides you with a dedicated manager to take care of your program, including any last minute changes that are bound to pop up.
A great factor to bring to the table when negotiating a great group rate is to know what your meeting is worth. The more historical data and information on your group that you can provide, the better. They need to see the ‘big picture’ of your program or block before they can put forth their best offer.
Typically the hotel will want one to three years of historical data and include information on such items as actual room pick up, pre- and post-room night pick up, food and beverage spend and any additional spend on hotel outlets so that they can see the potential revenue that you are bringing to the table, which is a great way to leverage negotiations. The more information, the better! Hotels need to understand the total spend, objectives and flow of your program in order to best accommodate your group’s needs.
Can you send out the RFP before we meet to discuss the event?
It’s surprising how often a client wants to see rates and availability without providing the full scope of the event. Since turnaround times are tighter these days, I hear this request a lot. Oftentimes the client may not be considering that there’s much more information needed to provide the best options. So what do you do, since you want to provide exceptional service?
I typically say I’d be happy to jump on a quick, 10 minute call to go over the scope of your event and send them the top questions I require, ensuring we target the best possible options for their event. Because at the end of the day, you don’t want to waste your time or the suppliers’ time and want to send fitting options.
I used to wonder why clients asked me these questions. Then I realized that this is my opportunity to educate them so they have a better understanding of how flight costs, room blocks, and an RFP works.
Often clients think that booking a hotel or a flight is as simple as looking at a calendar and filling out a form. Using an analogy of real estate can help. One does not simply see a price tag on a house and buy it for that price. There are inspections, legalities and negotiations that go into finalizing the purchase. Meeting industry professionals prove their value by educating clients and working together to ensure their objectives are met and their burning questions are answered.