Now more than ever, meeting planners have a lot to consider before sending an RFP (Request for Proposal) if they want it to stand out amongst the stack of other RFP’s hotels receive on a daily basis. We’ve talked about the importance of having a complete RFP and what to reveal before talking room rates to help planners solve this ever increasing frustration. Another tactic to add to your RFP toolkit is to understand the local demand of the destination(s) you are considering.
Making sense of the unique demand factors of the destination BEFORE beginning your search allows you to alter perhaps certain components of your RFP and avoid the frustration of not getting what you want.
Every destination is unique in location, weather, venues, amenities, etc. therefore, each destination’s overall business conditions are different, thus affecting room demand. By understanding the destination’s demand factors, you will:
- Understand the availability of dates you are considering, so you can discuss date flexibility with your meeting’s owner in advance.
- Demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the marketplace as well as provide greater credibility when negotiating with suppliers.
- Save time and money.
How Understanding Demand in a Destination Helps Planners with Their RFP
Understanding the demand in a destination can be a daunting and time consuming prospect for a planner. Luckily, there are destination experts in every city. The Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) sales professional has local expertise and extensive in-market relationships and are the best resource for understanding the local business conditions of the destinations you are considering. By utilizing this free resource, you will save yourself time and money. Two things we know all planners could use!
Ann Marie Chapman, Visitor Services & Outreach Specialist with the Fish & Wildlife Service, Midwest Region advises, “I think using the CVB is a well-kept secret, almost too well kept. Especially for people whose job title is not meeting planner, but the responsibility falls to them. I have done it alone before, and I won’t go back there again! Working with the support of a CVB saves time, energy and frustration. As a federal employee, I am also aware that sourcing a CVB to help me plan my meeting saves tax payer money! Instead of paying another 3rd party professional, I can tap into the existing knowledge base of a CVB for FREE.”
SeasonalityTip: Talk with your CVB destination expert to discuss the projected occupancy in their destination and use your destination knowledge to negotiate with hotels for possible concessions during slower time periods.
High and low seasons differ in just about every destination. It’s important for planners to look at the historical occupancy rates of the destination(s) under consideration so that they will have an understanding where the high and low periods are. Being armed with this information helps planners to understand the flexibility hotels will have in negotiations, availability and concessions for their meeting.
Planners shouldn’t make the mistake that every destination has similar high/low periods. For example, in cities like New York City and Honolulu, the holidays are a prime room demand period. If a planner is looking for a lot of concessions during this peak time, their RFP will likely end up in the bottom of the stack on a hotel salesperson’s desk.
The CVB sales professional has all the occupancy trends as well as an in-depth knowledge of the room demand nuances unique to their destination. The CVB sales professional helps planners understand the occupancy trends as it relates to the planner’s specific meeting needs and works with planners to craft their RFP for the best possible results.
Special EventsTip: Knowing what events are already happening in the city can save time by not needing to go back and forth on dates if they overlap with a major event.
We all know destinations hold special events throughout the year. These special events offer meeting attendees an opportunity to experience something unique to the destination. Planners will want to know if and how the meeting dates they are requesting will be affected by these events. Depending on the meeting requirements, holding a meeting coinciding with a special event could prove beneficial for the planner.
For example, Nate Tollett, Director of Sales at the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau offers, “Every February/March is the annual Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. Over 2 million people attend over the course of the event, mostly locals. We work with planners holding meetings over these dates to make sure it’s a perfect fit because it’s such a great time to be in town and see something that is unique to Houston.”
However, not all special events will prove beneficial. A planner may decide to avoid a special event due to a conflict of interest, large crowds around the meeting venue, and/or higher room rates. For example, a planner will typically find favorable hotel room rates when looking for dates in Omaha, Nebraska. Yet, during the College World Series, room availability will be scarce and rates will be much higher. Understanding the effect of the special event before sending an RFP will reduce potential frustrations for the planner.
Citywide ConventionsTip: Understand the potential impact a citywide convention might have on your meeting before sending your RFP by determining if your meeting could benefit by holding it around those dates.
Depending on your event requirements, holding your meeting over a citywide convention could be very helpful. For example, if your meeting utilizes a lot of hotel meeting space compared to your guest room block, being on top of a citywide convention where the hotel is participating with a partial block is a good fit. On the other hand, a large citywide convention can drive up demand and create compression in the destination. Available inventory will likely be sold at higher rates.
It’s hard for a planner to know which conventions create space opportunities and which ones create higher room demands on the destination. Nate recommends, “call your CVB sales professional in the destination and they will evaluate your meeting requirements against what other conventions are scheduled, to assist the planner in finding the best fit for their meeting.”
Local ConditionsTip: Understanding the unique arrival departure patterns of a destination can aid in selecting dates that would be favorable for a lower rate.
The business transient and leisure business mix differs in every destination. For example, destinations such as Philadelphia have high weekday business transient demand. If the meeting arrives on Tuesday and departs on Thursday, and flexibility to this pattern is not indicated on the RFP, then many hotels may move on to other business that fits the traditional Sunday-Wednesday or Wednesday-Friday/Saturday arrival departure patterns.
For destinations like Palm Springs that draw on a high weekend leisure demand, they depend upon weekday group business and may be a little more flexible when it comes to mid-week arrivals.
Nate Tollett offers, “Understanding the destination business mix is important information for a planner to have and the CVB is the best first option in obtaining this information. We work with planners on educating them about Houston’s unique business mix. For example, some people might not know that Houston has the 3rd largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the country, with a heavy transient demand during some days of the week. We work with planners and their dates to find the best fit in our city.”
The Best Local Resource to Yield the Strongest Results for Your RFP
By arming yourself with the right information BEFORE you begin your sourcing process, you are putting your RFP one step ahead, ensuring it garners the responses you are looking for. Seasonality, special events and conventions and room demand mix is a lot of information to gather, especially if it is a new destination. With their comprehensive view of the destination, local expertise and extensive in-market relationships, the CVB sales professional is the best first point of contact to help you find the right fit for your meeting and help get your RFP the best possible results.
Whether your group is large or small, starting the RFP process with the CVB will ensure there is less hassle in your planning experience. All CVBs offer complimentary destination information, assistance in creating and distributing your RFP, coordinating your site inspection visit and much more, saving planners valuable time and money. To reach out to CVB experts at more than 135 top meeting destinations, visit empowerMINT.com.