Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio August
BY NANCY W. FOY, CMP
In Search of a Reasonable Hotel Block
Nine things planners should know about room rates
Recently, our association's board considered a motion to pay for
meeting space at our national bridge tournaments as a means to
reduce our guest room rates. These tournaments last 10 days and
generally attract an older crowd, some retired and on limited
income, so our volunteer board knows that value/discounted room
rates are a key factor in luring attendees. While helping out our
players this way sounded good, the board didn't understand that
paying for meeting space doesn't necessarily mean lower room rates.
But that is not to say association planners can't get good rates.
Here are nine ways to improve the odds of cutting a favorable
1. Consider off-season or holiday dates. In
some cities, rates are lower in the sweltering summer months - and
priced out of sight in January when the snowbirds come to soak up
winter warmth. Also, many associations hold their annual
conventions in September and October; demand drives prices up
during these peak months. Find out when crush time is for the
destination you're considering before you choose a date. Also,
meeting over a holiday when other groups are staying home can bring
room rates down. I'm not just talking about Christmas - value dates
can be found on President's Day and other lesser holidays.
2. Stay the weekend. Transient business from
individual travelers is plentiful during the week, so rates are
generally higher for a midweek meeting than for one held Friday
3. Don't assume big groups get the best breaks.
In wholesale purchasing, the more you buy, the lower the price.
That's not always the case with meetings. If a hotel typically runs
65 percent occupancy, it has 35 percent of its rooms leftover. Many
methods are used to sell those rooms - like weekend specials.
Luckily for groups, hotels often are willing to sell those "extra"
rooms at lower rates to bring up their occupancy. So in some cases,
the fewer rooms you need, the lower the rate. For short-term
planning, if the hotel has wide-open dates, larger blocks may be
4. Consider everything you'll be spending. A
hotel may reduce the room rates if the group generates a high
volume of catering business, for instance. The price can drop in
resorts and casinos if the guests have a designated amount of free
time to use other services. Also, don't forget the "in conjunction
with" business generated by your exhibitors, which adds to a
group's catering volume and can lower room rates even further.
5. Build loyalties. Repeat business with a
hotel or chain can lead to better deals. Work with the national
sales manager to determine the long-term value of your business and
arrange multiyear agreements.
6. Be wary of planning too far out. Booking
group business three or more years in advance may increase the room
rate, because hotels are removing their inventory (rooms) from the
shelves at a set price, taking the risk that they won't find a more
profitable piece of business for those dates. By buying the
business closer in, a planner might be able to reduce the rate,
since the hotel will have a shorter time frame in which to sell
those rooms. The downside: You are taking on increased risk, since
fewer appropriate sites will have space available.
7. Limit your concessions and comps. The fewer
complimentary and discounted rooms your association uses, the lower
your rate is likely to be.
8. Rethink your meeting space needs. If your
group's room block is small but meeting space needs are extensive,
room rates may be higher, and you'll probably be charged for the
meeting space. If a hotel regularly gets local business during the
time of the meeting - say wedding receptions on June weekends - you
may be able to reduce room rates by not using the prime ballroom.
The rate also might be lower if you book the hotel's maximum block
(as high as 90 percent of rooms but more likely 70 to 80 percent),
and the meeting space will probably be free.
9. Be reasonable. A hotel's cost of doing
business requires it achieve an average daily rate (ADR). Put
simply, for every room that is sold at $100, the hotel must sell
two at $175 to reach an ADR of $150. Also, large convention hotels,
by their size and location alone, must demand higher rates than
roadside hotels on less prime real estate.
Nancy W. Foy, CMP, is the
director of meeting services for the Memphis, Tenn.-based American
Contract Bridge League.
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