"I recommend to planners to contact a CVB before they even put their RFP together."
Mindy Lallier, Senior Sales Manager, Visit Overland Park, shares her perspective on how a destination expert with a CVB can help you construct a complete and destination specific RFP and Destination Marketing Association International’s (DMAI’s) Terri Roberts takes note.
Mindy says she is often asked about what really should be included in an RFP. Many planners feel burdened by the time it takes to include comprehensive information and just want to lead with the basics of rates, dates and needed space. Or they feel they will not put themselves in a position of strength in negotiations if they reveal too much up front. Mindy explains it is just the opposite in fact! Complete information disseminated to the right hotels and venues offers planners the best opportunity for the most timely and competitive RFP response.
TERRI: I often hear from planners that they are frustrated by the lack of response, or slow response, to their RFP. Do you hear this as well? What do you think causes the slow down?
MINDY: I have heard this from some planners and can understand the frustration. First, with the overall volume of RFPs rising due to increased demand, I always suggest to planners to increase the RFP proposal turnaround time accordingly if possible. Although CVBs certainly expedite the process by collecting all responses and making sure RFP’s are in the right hands, a short turnaround is not always realistic.
If a planner is looking for a “rates, dates, and space” proposal, a 24 hour turnaround is possible. I have found that planners often receive a much more comprehensive and competitive proposal if more time is allowed for the sales teams and revenue managers to discuss their needs. Second, I recommend to planners to contact a CVB before they even put their RFP together. As local experts who are so closely connected to area hotels and meeting venues, CVB’s can help you customize the RFP to be destination-specific, so once it’s distributed, the turnaround time can be that much faster and the proposal more precise.
TERRI: How has the way hotels evaluate business changed?
MINDY: The economy is improving, which in turn increases hotel demand. In recent years, it has been a buyer’s market and it is now more of a seller’s market. Each piece of meeting business presented to a hotel is now jointly evaluated by sales and revenue managers for profit potential. Many hotels are requiring the business they bid on to fit perfectly into every component of the hotel from rooms to catering, and unless each facet meets or exceeds booking parameters, guest room rates will fluctuate accordingly, or the business will be turned down. To reduce turnaround time, my suggestion to meeting planners is to be flexible if possible. If you can work with a hotel on a date pattern change or reduce meeting space required, etc., you will have a better opportunity to get the proposal you are seeking.
TERRI: What is the basic information that must be included in all RFPs?
MINDY: The information given in your RFP is key to getting the response you need from a community or property. I am often asked what should be included. For starters:
What are the dates for your event? Are you flexible? Can your pattern of days change (ex. Monday-Thursday or Wed-Saturday)? Dates are important to the proposal process because they determine availability. If you are flexible with your dates, and the pattern in which your meeting will be held, you will see a range of rates and availability for your event. Some dates are more desirable for certain hotels and you could get a better deal by being flexible.
2. Number of Rooms
What is the number of guest rooms on peak your group needs (ex. Monday 20 rooms, Tuesday 50 rooms, Wed-Thurs. 150 rooms)? The total number of rooms you need is also very important, taking over an entire hotel, does not necessarily mean you will get the best rates. Taking rooms during a specific season or week-night, can sometimes give the hotel flexibility with rates and or concessions.
How much meeting space will your group require? What are your move-in and move-out days? What type of set up do you need in your meeting rooms? Meeting space is what a hotel uses to sell their group rooms. Needing a lot of meeting space, but using a small amount of guest rooms, can cause your rental or guest room rates to soar. Again, being flexible with your needs will usually get you the most bang for your buck.
4. Food and Beverage
What meals will you be providing for the group? Food and beverage is another revenue generator for hotels. If you are hosting meal events, let the hotel know. The more food and beverage you have the better your room rates and rental fees will be.
TERRI: What additional information helps hotels to evaluate business quickly and get back to the planner with a complete proposal?
MINDY: A more comprehensive RFP will garner an even quicker and more complete response and should include:
What is your budget? For meals? For your group’s hotel rooms? Know your budget. You won’t be wasting your time and/or the property’s time, if you know right off the bat your event isn’t the right fit for a particular property.
Where have you been in the past? What have you paid in the past? What was your guest room pick-up? As far back as you can go is helpful, but a minimum of two years is required. History helps for many reasons. It gives an accurate depiction of your business. It shows your groups worth.
7. Hot Buttons
What matters the most to you? What concessions are you asking for (ex. 1/40 comp – for every 40 rooms your group actualizes you get one free; comp. meeting space with 85% guest room pick up; free internet in guest rooms, etc)? It can never hurt to ask, right? Well, I must say it probably can… some RFP’s have so many “must haves” they lose the option for some great properties. Hotels/convention centers are for-profit, your business must be a win-win situation for all parties for the business to make sense.
When will you be making a decision? Who will be making the decision? A decision date is important – or at least a ball park date. Most properties are sales focused, with the staff goal orientated. Decision dates make a difference to a sales person. Generally, the sooner you are making a decision, the better deal you are going to get. Asking a property to wait months or years in some cases for you to make a decision is not very desirable.
9. Due Date
When is the proposal due? I know you want to have an answer right away… but if you have the time, give them some time. The more time a property has, the stronger and more thought out proposal you will get.
Who else is competing for your business? Everyone wants to know who they are competing against. In most instances, this will work to your favor. If there isn’t competition… then why would they have to give you the best deal?
Remember, the more information you can provide to a community or property bidding on your event, the more likely you’ll get the proposal you are looking for and make the right decision for your organization.
TERRI: What do you think are the advantages of distributing an RFP through your CVB?
MINDY: Convention & Visitors Bureaus are a great resource to assist you with your RFPs. They can send out your request for proposals (RFP) to local facilities, connect you with the services you need (i.e. transportation services or off-site venues), and offer unique a variety of other services for your meeting or event.