July 2013
Familiarity Breeds Contentment in Multiple Bookings, Plus Undeniable Value

Sponsored by Starwood Hotels and Resorts

One fascinating development of the increasingly competitive meeting business world is that it has taken the popular phrase "time is money" and turned it on its head. As many a savvy planner well knows, the more notice you give in negotiations, the more money you stand to save in a longer, more lucrative journey to the final booking process.And doing so often allows for the double benefit that can come with booking several events at once, and relying on one vendor to offer the right venues at the right price.

In a recent survey of 178 meeting planners and executives conducted by the Starwood Convention Collection and Northstar Travel Media, 32.4% of those questioned book events 6-11 months ahead of time with another 31% booking at least a year in advance. In addition, 69% of those decision makers see the benefit of booking more than one event at a time, citing more value add-ons, more consistent service level and a gain in time and efficiencies as their top motivations.

"For me, my client is all I care about, and I'm just trying to negotiate the best deal," says Kathleen McCasland, whose company, Your Conference Connection, has long booked annual events for tech firm Oracle Development Tools User Group (ODTUG). For years, that process meant McCasland would, "put together an RFP myself and I would research all the big-enough hotels in a city and personally send the RFP to sales departments and follow up and back and forth and back and forth."

Her process-in terms of both convenience and savings-changed dramatically for the better when McCasland opted to try the multiple booking service offered by Starwood Convention Collection. "Economically, the deals are much better," she says.

Starwood Convention Collection's exclusive benefits include complimentary guest room Internet, an attrition concession, and the highest percent-off master bill and Starpoints earning potential of any Starwood national offer. Planners are also provided a dedicated Convention Service Consultant (for meetings with at least 300 peak room nights) and sales representative to make sure preferences and needs are met from meeting to meeting within the Starwood Convention Collection agreement.

The inspiration for the change was McCasland's desire to secure several shows at once in advance. Now, ODTUG's big annual four-day meeting is booked through 2016 in different major U.S. cities, the most recent one finding 1,300 attendees taking up all the meeting and sleeping space at the Sheraton New Orleans. Next year, the attendees head to the Sheraton in Seattle. "[Starwood has] given us better attrition rates and better concessions; it's a true win for everybody," she says. And although all 30 Sheraton and Westin hotels in the Starwood Convention Collection network can accommodate large meetings, the program's offering does apply to multiple meetings of many sizes. The value proposition is meant to be flexible to best accommodate how planners operate.

McCasland adds an additional fringe benefit: "If my participants join Starwood Preferred Guest, after a couple of years attending the ODTUG event, they're going to have many points they can redeem for vacations."

With safeguards built into her contracts, and dedicated, personalized service, McCasland is now among the majority of converts: 67.5% of those meetings execs and planners surveyed have booked contracts with the same vendor. "They made me a loyal customer," she says of Starwood. "I just feel like they care."

For more information on the Starwood Convention Collection,
visit www.starwoodmeetings.com/starwoodexperience/convention-collection

Be sure to read the entire Starwood ewhitepaper series launching June through September 2013: Part 1 of 4 "Making Your Contract work for You"
and Part 2 of 4 " Familiarity Breeds Contentment in Multiple Bookings, Plus Undeniable Value"