by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | November 01, 2003

By limiting their negotiating strategy to securing the lowest room rate, meeting planners actually shortchange their group of some valuable added opportunities, says Keith Biumi, brand marketing director for Atlanta-based Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts ( Biumi, a 15-year industry executive, offers these insider tips for getting the most at the bargaining table.

Crowne Plaza
     Crowne Plaza's
       Keith Biumi

" Know, really know, the hotel industry. By demonstrating an in-depth knowledge of the hotel side of the business, planners will find hotel salespeople willing to work harder to get their business.

" Play up room ratio to attendee numbers. Guest rooms are the most profitable part of a hotel’s revenue stream, so try not to book more than two people to a room. If most rooms will be single occupancy, that’s a plus worth noting.
" Wait to book catered-only events. Hotels prefer booking food and beverage functions for in-house groups. Planners booking a catered-only event should shop it less than 30 days out. By then, the hotel has a good handle on group business on the books and will be anxious to fill its F&B holes.

" Be flexible. Hotels like to sell rooms within their established arrival/departure patterns. Work within that schedule, and they’ll be more apt to improve on other aspects of the deal.

" Location is not everything. A chain’s downtown property might not have the right dates or rates, but the suburban sister property might. If location is not a sticking point, note your flexibility.

" Multiple means more. Establishing multiple contracts at negotiation time will make the hotelier more open to discussion (and concessions).

" Be loyal. Consistently using the same brand hotel shows loyalty, which translates to valued customer. If you’re a devotee of the chain, play it up.

" Don’t hesitate to ask. For every special offering mentioned in a hotel’s meeting planner kit, there are two unwritten ones. Always ask for VIP upgrades, value-added offerings, A/V discounts or anything else that would be meaningful to your group.