Individual travelers have an advantage over meeting planners when it comes to finding great package deals on hotels, airfare and activities. Leisure travelers have any number of e-mail alerts they can sign up for with individual properties, airlines and convention and visitor bureaus (CVB). But meeting and event planners also have options. Here’s a look at some of the resources planners can use to find great bargains for their groups or budget travel costs for 2010.
If you already know what cities you’re looking at, call a convention sales manager that you have a good relationship with. At a hotel, they can tell you the best value dates at their property or sister properties around the United States. CVB contacts can help you gain added value by helping arrange special discounts on space rentals, restaurants, group activities, transportation and more.
Planners dealing with a tight booking window may benefit from picking up hotel rooms that have already been negotiated on the Meetings Community hotel room re-sale board. Planners must have the hotel’s approval before posting rooms for re-sale and must post them at the negotiated rate. It’s a great way for planners desperate to book rooms at the last minute to help their peers avoid attrition costs. If it’s something you’re interested in doing to avoid possible attrition, the site also has a clause planners can insert into future hotel contracts.
If you haven’t decided on a particular destination, there are several online tools you can use to compare options. TripStarter, an online application hosted by Hotwire.com, gives historical overviews of what hotel and airfare prices have been over the past two to three years. A sidebar called “Destination Details” summarizes when the best times to travel and stay are, as well as when to go, what to do and what to see. The only drawback is if you have attendees traveling from multiple cities. In that case, you might have to do multiple searches or use a search engine like Bing.com.
On Bing.com, using the “search multiple routes in one view” option, planners can get a feel for what it would cost for attendees to get to the destination from several different cities (albeit in reverse of how leisure travelers do it). Instead of selecting the meeting city as the destination, set it as the departure city, and add the different cities of attendee origin as destinations. Doing this allows you to see what the lowest fares along those routes are during a 30-day range and for a pre-determined trip length (choose from one to 14 nights). The application also will show whether or not fares are expected to rise, fall or remain steady for the next seven days.
Cities tend to offer meeting planners the biggest discounts when their leisure travel business is slow. Most of the destination guides on PlanYourMeetings.com list when those value seasons are in the “411” section. Other places to search include the Plan Your Meetings Resource Directory, where many hotels and CVBs list special offers, and the PYM Hot Picks e-newsletters that go out every two weeks. These e-blasts often contain special meeting deals and offers.
Use these resources to augment the information you already may be receiving via e-mail from hotels, CVBs and transportation companies. Happy hunting!