by Loren G. Edelstein | April 02, 2018
Plans are forging ahead for Meeting Planners Unite, established as a LinkedIn Group in late January and now taking applications for association members. Independent planners, except those working for the major third-party planning firms, are welcome to apply, MPU founder David Bruce specified in a detailed update posted yesterday on the association's Facebook page.

"MPU will be wholly and entirely centered around the needs of our third-party partners and will always put them first in considering how the organization views the issues of the day," noted Bruce, who is managing director of CMP Meeting Services. "The opportunity to change the mindset of the industry starts with this organization. Our goals are to continue to lobby the industry on the issues of the day and make sure that the independent planner and their suppliers are recognized for the efforts they give to the industry every day."
 
M&C reached out to Bruce for more details this morning. Here's what he told us.
 
Why can't independent planners who work for the large third parties become MPU members?

Our organization is open to any independent planner not affiliated with one of the larger organizations at this time. Our goal is to continue to talk to the properties as another entity -- another grouping -- and if we allow the other agencies in we're not giving ourselves the ability to negotiate the way we need to. Should those agencies fall back to our numbers, where they also get 7 percent commission, then yes, we would open membership up for them. Because then their people will be in the same situation as we are in.
 
Are there any restrictions on supplier members?

Supplier memberships are open to any supplier that offers products or services for the betterment of our planner members and their clients. Marriott corporate hotels and resorts are not invited at this time. However, Marriott franchise properties and Autograph/Starwood Collection hoteliers are asked and encouraged to join. Hilton properties also are invited and encouraged to participate.
 
As for Hilton, the properties have the right to not follow through with the 7 percent, and that's why they are invited to come to our conference, because we believe that the more relationships we have with properties, the more opportunities we have to keep them at 10 percent. It's in our best interest to welcome them.
 
Do you expect many Hiltons to stay at 10 percent?

I honestly don't know; I haven't talked to any Hilton people about this yet. They don't switch over until Oct. 1, so I don't think they're really dealing with it at this point. My sense is that they're not going to make a decision one way or another until we get much farther down the road.
 
Have you had any contact with Marriott since your planned meeting in late January was canceled?

No, we've had no further contact with Marriott. We haven't even pursued it at this point. Until we get the numbers on the association side, there really is no point in reaching out to them.
 
There was some buzz a few weeks ago that InterContinental Hotels Group would follow Hilton in cutting commissions. Have you heard anything about IHG or other chains following suit?
No, have not heard a single word about anybody else following.
 
Have you heard of more chains that have offered higher commissions in response?

Yes, as a matter of fact, Warwick Hotels is offering 10 percent commission on sleeping rooms, and 5 percent on meeting-room rental and F&B, which is applicable to all new bookings in the U.S. and the Bahamas. They have hotels in Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and the Bahamas.
 
When will your new website be live?

The projected launch date is April 15, and that looks to be a pretty solid date.
 
You've announced that your first meeting, to take place in December in Reno, Nev., will be a hosted-buyer event. What is your business model for hosting qualified planners?

I can't really come out and say what we're doing at this point because the deal isn't done; right now we have a handshake agreement. But the conference will be fully hosted for buyers, and for those who are not able to come, we will have a satellite link to each of the sessions available to our membership.

What kind of hotel deals will be offered to MPU members?

We will have special deals developed with hotel chains for MPU members; faster payment of commissions for members; commissions paid at the signing of the contract, and special deals with properties based upon potential business from MPU members.
 
What other types of discounts are you working on securing?

We are working with a registration and sourcing service to offer our members the opportunity to use their product on a complimentary basis for six months before having to pay for the product. We also are working on member discounts -- and commissionable rates -- with regional and national audiovisual companies and decorator services; rental car discounts with Avis and Budget; and special pricing on printing, shipping services, signage, office supplies, insurance, legal and other professional services.

What type of educational sessions will be offered at the conference?

Sessions will focus on entrepreneurship, how to streamline your small business, IRS issues, legal issues, website development and web-based marketing. We will also have a planners-only think-tank session on how to lobby as an industry. The conference will also have a trade-show component.
 
What else is on the horizon for MPU?

We're so busy at this point. We're in conference every single day discussing what we're doing and how we're doing it. We're talking about every little aspect of this with so many different people. We're going to send out a blast out to 27,000 planners and suppliers throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico when our website launches, so we're very excited to just blow this thing out.
 
It's just exciting! I'm so excited, I get up every morning about 4 a.m. now; I just can't wait to get going. It's a thrill being able to put this together and make it happen as smoothly as it has gone so far. I just believe the industry has so needed this for so long, there's no one who's saying, 'What a terrible idea!' It's thrilling to feel the excitement that this has produced.
 
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