In these economic times when every dollar an organization spends is being scrutinized, meeting expenses are under the microscope just like every other expenditure. What’s the single most important thing you can do to ensure you negotiate the best possible deal for your meeting? What one tool will save you time, energy and frustration in the site selection and negotiation process? The answer: a Request for Proposal (RFP) used to solicit bids from hotels and facilities to host your meeting.
By taking the time to identify the most important elements in selecting a site and putting those items into an RFP, you can reduce the time spent in searching for a site and give yourself the upper hand in negotiations. An RFP can be sent via a Web site such as PlanYourMeetings.com, through a city’s convention and visitors’ bureau for distribution to local properties, or sent directly to potential properties or a hotel chain’s national sales office. By outlining all your needs in one document, you save time and make your job easier.
Here’s what to include in your RFP:
- The name and description of the meeting
- Your contact information and preferred method of receiving responses
- Preferred dates and arrival/departure pattern (make sure to note if your dates are flexible)
- Deadline for responses
- Description of sleeping room and meeting space needs (i.e., number of rooms and suites per night including bed types of sleeping rooms needed, schedule of meetings and events with attendance and preferred room sets for each)
- Special concessions you want, such as reduced time for the cut-off date, complimentary sleeping rooms, meeting space rental reductions, VIP upgrades, F&B special pricing and airport transportation, etc.
- If this is a repeat meeting, include history from the prior meeting, such as the room pick-up per night, F&B revenue generated, as well as the overall spend of your group, including incidentals
- Request for clarification of miscellaneous fees (i.e., occupancy tax, F&B tax and service charge fee and parking fees, etc.)
- Request for sample menu pricing for meals and receptions
- Request for airport information (i.e., distance, complimentary hotel shuttle or average taxi and shuttle fares)
- Request for information on a hotel’s sustainability and social responsibility policies, including information on recycling, composting and leftover food donations, if this is an area important to your group. If you require certain policies or procedures, then this is the time to stipulate them.
One of the most important aspects of creating an RFP is item No. 6, identifying the special concessions most important to your meeting. Don’t make the mistake of asking for everything under the sun, as that weakens your bargaining power, and you’ll end up giving up things that are most important to you. Instead, spend some time identifying the concessions of most importance to your group and outline them in your RFP.
When you begin to receive proposals back, I recommend that you take the time to create a matrix, outlining your requirements on the left side. Then, list the hotels across the top of your spreadsheet and fill in the offerings from each hotel. This will allow you to compare all the hotels at a glance to determine which one best meets your needs.