3: Luxury boutique hotel
5: Transportation company
6: Luxury convention hotel
Question 1: If you’ve been seeing cancellations or a market segment taper off, how are you filling the void?
1:Pharmaceutical business is what we really saw drop off. They were one of our biggest markets and they stopped everything because they were no longer allowed to hold meetings in restaurants unless there was an educational presentation. So I offered to deliver food to them. I’m concentrating more on catering for functions.
5: We’re focusing on what’s the most profitable. Business is so last minute. We’re focusing on the niche markets.
2: We’re seeing a lot of hotels waiving penalties for attrition and cancellations.
6: We’re trying to educate customers about the cancellation policy and see if we can postpone rather than cancel outright. One thing we’re struggling with is people perceive us a luxury property and they think that looks bad.
PYM: Maybe then you should educate them about where a percentage of your profits go. [They go into the retirement fund for teachers, firemen, policemen and state workers.] If they know that, you may not encounter so much resistance.
2: Our location is beneficial though. Because we’re in Alabama, it looks better to their bosses to come here than to go to Las Vegas.
4: Our hotels hold the money when groups cancel and if they rebook within a certain amount of time, it may be used as a credit.
3: We need Sunday-Wednesday business. We’re really looking at our drive-in markets and using bus travel to network. Most of my business is repeat from where I used to work.
1: If I have a group that doesn’t make their guarantees and they’re looking at a $1,000 fee, I suggest upgrades so that they don’t feel as if they’re paying for nothing. I look at the menu and maybe everybody has lobster instead of chicken. I feel like you’re paying for it anyway, you might as well make it something nice.
6: We see if we can upgrade rooms for them, that kind of thing, so it feels like a win-win. It makes it special for the people who did make it.
5: One thing I’m struggling with is do you run at a discount, or do you turn that business away?
3: Start at your regular price. You can always go down, but you can’t go back up.
4: You shouldn’t be lowering prices, but you have to compete.
5: For the inauguration, we thought there’d be a huge demand, so we didn’t discount, but as a result, we didn’t send as many busses as we wanted. A company that always books with us for the Super Bowl literally booked half of what they normally do.
Question 2: What’s your biggest challenge/solutions?
4: We’re encouraging our hotels to partner with transportation companies, we’re offering discounts, CVB welcome bags free of charge. We have volunteers to work the kiosk at the airport. We had three good leads yesterday.
5: We’re big on partnering and packaging.
1: We partner with local hotels offer discounts and sell gift cards at places like Costco.
4: Our team tourism is really focusing on our branding.
5: We’re working with partners to book groups and bundling.
PYM: When we asked planners what their No. 1 reason was for giving someone business it was customer service, then it was what kind of added value you’re bringing to the table.
2: We’re really pushing our regional marketing, marketing everywhere we can since it’s a down economy.
6: We’re just being really flexible.
4: It used to be that our hotels would never accept bus business, now they accept everything. You don’t want to burn any bridges.
3: We offer local discounts. If they’re local and they want to come during the week, I’ll go way down on the price. If it’s a group coming down from Boston to buy out the hotel, then I won’t go down that far.
4: In Florida, the governor has decreed that no government business can go to a hotel that’s not green. So we’ve gone very green. When you come and meet we can offset your carbon footprint.
1: It’s really expensive for restaurants to go green. We do print our menus on recycled paper, though.
5: I’ve looked at carbon offsets and exchange programs, but it’s very expensive to do for a transportation company.
6: We haven’t gotten many green requests.
2: We’re getting more than we used to, but what I’ve been getting requests for is smoke-free properties. I’m seeing planners say they can’t book anywhere that doesn’t have non-smoking laws in place.
Table discusses who does and doesn’t have smoking bans in place.
2: Associations are booking less. The public perception of excess dictates how the meeting is conducted.
4: We had someone call and say I need the same pricing I had in 2005. I said, we’ll give you the same pricing as 2005 if you sign a 3-year contract. That way, they can go back to their boss and say: “Look what I got,” and we know we’ll have the business.
1: We’re seeing smaller parties, smaller functions and more of them. We’re getting donations from partners.
5: It’s a trickle-down effect, big corporations like Home Depot are closing stores, laying off workers. When the company lays off a lot of people, they don’t feel right spending all this money on a holiday party. They feel like they have to cut costs. We have to help clients be creative so we can keep the customer’s event. We need to stay aggressive, market, network and be creative.