Evaluating hotel proposals is a time-consuming and multi-step process. On top of being fair to all concerned, it is important to remember that the destination, convention center and hotel(s) are going to play a very big part in the overall success of your event.
Create an Assessment Criteria Spreadsheet
Before the first proposal hits your email inbox, be sure to create a spreadsheet of your must-have and your nice-to-have criteria. List those criteria on the left and the hotels and destinations along the top. You also need to establish a weight factor on the “nice to haves”. For example, free Wi-Fi may weigh higher than the hotel’s location to restaurants and attractions.
The proposals that meet all your “must haves” are the ones that will make the first cut. Now it is time to look at the nice-to-haves and see how they weigh in. Chances are, five or six hotels/destinations will rise to the top, so you can feel confident that your selection is based on quantitative analysis. Look at the qualitative features each response offers.
After the quantitative analysis is complete and you have narrowed down your destinations and hotels, it is time to move onto the qualitative measurements. Here are a few items for consideration:
- What is the quality of the hotel or destination? You can look at the star rating on Cvent Supplier Network and also see when the hotel was built or last renovated. Spend time looking at the hotel’s photos and/or videos to get a feel for the facility.
- What type of amenities do they offer and what is the quality of those amenities?
- Is the facility within walking distance of restaurants, attractions and, nightlife? Since most convention attendees do not bring their car and up to 50% bring one or more family members with them, it is important to have attractions nearby.
- What is the layout of the meeting space? Is it on the same floor or close to guest rooms? Is it configured with state-of-the-art AV, lighting, and Wi-Fi?
- Did they confirm specific meeting rooms in their proposal? If not, ask them to do so.
- Is the facility offering concessions in their proposal? If so, how will they impact your bottom line?
- Are they offering an all-inclusive price that includes meeting space, catering, audio-visual and other computer features?
- Along those lines, does the sleeping room rate include taxes and service charges?
- Are you paying gross room rates or using a third-party vendor and paying commission on net?
Types of Hotels and Meeting Space
According to a study by the International Special Events Society, information about the meeting room(s) is the most important factor in venue selection. It ranks higher than:
- The cost of the facility
- Nearby attractions
- Exhibit space and
- Previous experience
Therefore, it would benefit venues to show off their space through videos and photos. Spend time analyzing the meeting space virtually, because this is where a high percentage of your attendee’s time will be spent.
Look at the following for each meeting room:
- Ceiling Height – This can affect sight and sound. If ceilings are too low, attendees may not be able to see the presentation. If they are too high, the quality of the sound may be a problem.
- Physical Configuration – How is the space laid out? Are there obstacles in the room?
- The relative location of your meeting rooms – Are they side-by-side or even on the same floor?
- Closeness to guest rooms
When looking at a venue, are you the only one being offered those dates and spaces? If not, find out how many other groups you are going against. Typically, the first group to sign on the dotted line secures the space. However, the hotel marketing staff may not call you immediately to let you know their RFP is completely off the table unless you go with your second or third date options.
Engage with the staff and determine how responsive they are to your requests. Are they getting back to you within a reasonable time period or does it take 2-3 calls before you get a response? Pay attention to responsiveness and if they are interested in building a long-term relationship with you.
What do other planners say about the destination and hotel? We discussed this in the previous chapter, but it is important to seek out other recommendations. An easy way to do this is through professional organizations such as Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) or Association Society of Association Executives (ASAE). Each of these organizations has online community boards that provide advice and recommendations. Joining a local chapter gives you the ability to build new face-to-face relationships that can cultivate trusted recommendations about destinations and venues.
Remember to also to work with your Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). They are experts on the destination and can answer many of your questions.
- It is vital to review destinations and properties both from a quantitative and qualitative standpoint. The quantitative analysis will help you weed out properties and destinations that just won’t fit, while the qualitative data will help you determine if the destination and hotel work well with your group dynamics.
- Spend time evaluating your meeting rooms. Are they large enough? Do they have the right ceiling heights? What about natural light? Are there obstacles in the room that could obstruct attendees’ view of the speaker? Based on the photos and videos, what is the “feel” of the space and how can it benefit your event?
- Test to see if the CVBs and hotels are responsive to your questions after receiving their RFP. Their responsiveness will be a good indication of how attentive they will be if they win your business.
- What do your peers say about the destination or hotel? Are they raving or ranting about it? According to the Event Manager Blog research, planners trust other planners when looking for advice about a venue. To that end, join one of the planner organizations, such as PCMA, MPI or ISES and serve on a committee to get to know your fell
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Read more on sourcing at The Essential Planner Guide to Sourcing.