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by Kari Kesler Wendel | October 01, 2012
Takeaways
You can save 10 to 20 percent on guest rooms, meeting space, and food-and-beverage costs by engaging in combined sourcing.

Target current suppliers who can support the needs of both transient and group travel.

Engage global stakeholders to ensure you have appropriate coverage in all markets.

Involve the procurement and legal departments to ensure alignment throughout the organization.

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The following checklist was compiled by Kari Kesler Wendel, who serves as senior director of strategic meetings management, program management and solutions, for Minneapolis-based CWT Meetings & Events. The framework outlined here, adapted from CWT Vision, provides opportunities to leverage combined meetings/events and transient travel volume in negotiations with suppliers.

Examine Hotel DataConsider properties in the preferred hotel program that can meet the needs of both meetings and transient travel (e.g., those with on-site meeting space and food-and-beverage capability). The number of properties that can accommodate both types of travel will vary based on the organization's existing preferred suppliers. In most cases, there will not be 100 percent overlap.

Consider taking a chainwide approach, negotiating for both transient and meetings volume with one or several large national or global hotel chains.

Collect and review as much data as possible on current hotel volumes for both transient and meetings spend. Look for commonalities and patterns in terms of chains or individual properties used, locations most frequently visited, etc.

Be vigilant about identifying hotel costs that appear high for a transient trip but low for a large meeting. These may represent small meetings, which are difficult to track but represent the majority of meetings spend for many organizations. Small meetings also offer the best opportunity for negotiations based on combined transient and meetings volume, because they often are flexible enough to be held at smaller facilities.

Adjust Policies and ResourcesBe sure your meetings policy covers venue selection. The success of combining volumes is dependent on the organization's ability to drive travelers to preferred properties.

Dedicate sufficient internal resources, the cost of external consultants or both to give this combined-volume effort the attention it deserves for maximum impact.

Partner with SuppliersClearly articulate to hoteliers the benefit of this approach, as it requires significant effort and adaptability on their part. Examples include guaranteed meetings and events business for the hotelier for the entire year, as well as the ability for hotel salespeople to focus elsewhere once the deal is done, rather than having to sell every meeting individually.

Meet with suppliers outside the typical negotiation environment to outline the organization's strategy, hear about their goals and objectives, and discuss how each party can support the other.

Develop Communications Strategy Engage global affiliates by communicating the new program in a three-phased approach -- pre-program start date, go-live date, post-program start date. Highlight the preferred booking channels and benefits of using the global hotel program.

Schedule visits between agents/sourcing teams and preferred hotel partners, allowing them to share new information and showcase select properties.