While the market is softening a touch, it is still very much a seller’s market, which is why it is even more important for planners to ensure they are putting all of the pertinent information in their Request for Proposal (RFP). Sending out a comprehensive RFP is the first step in getting the desired responses from hotels. However, planners don’t always include all of the important information they need to ensure a quick and competitive response.
So, we turned to an industry expert for a little advice! Karen Staples, CMI, CASE, Northeast Director of Sales, Visit Salt Lake has seen a lot of RFPs, both as a CVB sales professional and in association management as the Managing Director of Development for the Talley Management Group.
It’s our pleasure to share with you her responses to some RFP quandaries in this interview.
DMAI: What are the most common mistakes you see from planners sending RFPs to destinations and hotels?
- Not Including Complete History
Think of your meeting history like a credit report. It is imperative to have a complete guest room history included. Three years of day-by-day room block and pick-up history is ideal, including destination, hotel and room rates. Some meeting planners might be hesitant to include history due to some anomalies, however, it is better to include the history and note the reason for those anomalies, versus not including anything.
- Not Including Flexible Dates
The more flexible you are with dates, the better your results will be. Therefore, make it a practice to include alternate date flexibility in pattern, day of the week for arrival or even month. Let the hotel bring some value back to you. You may be able to save your organization a lot of money if you are able to consider alternate dates.
- Not Including Information About the Organization’s Goals and Objectives for the Meeting
It’s important to include both the organization’s goals and your meeting objectives in the RFP. There is a right fit for every meeting and knowledge is power. Clearly indicate what you are trying to achieve from the start and it will help potential venues and hotels provide a concise response, as well as help to ensure your goals and objectives are met.
- Not Including Past Day-by-Day Programming Detail
It’s important to include as much detailed information on your meeting flow as possible. While planners are accustomed to providing overall meeting dates, by also including the past day-by-day programming of your meeting, you allow the venues to review and provide a detailed proposal back to you, ensuring your meeting is receiving the due diligence it deserves.
- Not Prioritizing Concessions
All concessions are not created equal! It helps expedite responses when all desired concessions are listed and the ones that are non-negotiable are identified. Think of it as making a “nice to have” and a “need to have” list.
- Not Taking Into Consideration the Demand Factors of the Destination
Every destination is unique in location, weather, venues, amenities, industries, etc., which impacts each destination’s overall business transient, group, and leisure demand. Additionally, seasonality, special events, and citywide conventions all play a part in how your RFP will be reviewed. Understanding the unique destination demand factors of the destination(s) you are considering will help to get the best RFP response.
DMAI: Why is it so important to convey information about the organization and the objectives of the meeting in the RFP?
Planners may miss opportunities to weave in destination assets, in some cases critical alliances, that can augment or make their program stronger and/or save them money. Also, the DMO will know by your organization description and objectives what they can or shouldn’t marry with your program. Understanding what your goals are helps the DMO advocate on your behalf for the things that will strengthen your program and drive interest and attendance.
DMAI: Should planners also include information about attendee demographics and behaviors? Why?
Both are ESSENTIAL and the KEY to help the DMO help you promote your event. We must know the demographics! It helps us understand not only what they want to take advantage of in the destination, but also how they communicate (technology used) and what they may want communication about. This information is CRITICAL to the success of the program.
DMAI: At what point is it best to establish contact with the CVB? How does this help you in gaining competitive responses to your RFP?
It is always best to reach out at the beginning of the process. We can help save you tremendous time and offer key advantages you should engage with from the beginning. We know how and when to navigate the pitfalls you may encounter for particular times of years and for certain properties.
To avoid omitting any of these or other important elements of your RFP, be sure to reach out to the sales professionals at the convention & visitors bureau. The CVB sales professional is the best first point of contact to help meeting planners find the right fit for any size meeting. Meeting planners can utilize their destination expertise to get timely, complete and competitive responses to their RFP, not to mention someone who will be with them throughout the planning process, to ensure a successful meeting outcome.
If you’d like to learn more and dig deeper into this topic with Karen, please join us for our May Webinar, Does Your RFP Warrant a Competitive Response? Your Guide to Yes!