Month: May 2016

It’s a Seller’s Market – We Can Help

The impact the setting can have on an event is enormous. Every detail – from the hotel brand to the city to the specific day within the specific month – can make a difference in an event’s experience.

As meeting and event professionals, we manically obsess over thoughtfully consider each of these details when considering a location for an event.

The landscape of location selection is changing, though, and it is much harder to secure those perfectly-researched first choices as easily as you once could. Post-recession, there has been very little new hotel room supply, particularly in the four- and five-star categories, while the greatly increased demand for meetings, which began in 2010, has continued to grow over the past 6 years. 70% of the new hotels that are cropping up are limited service properties, and not hotels suitable for meetings. When increased demand meets limited supply, planners find themselves in the midst of a hot seller’s market that shows no signs of changing any time soon. Even projections for 2017 show the average daily rate up 4.3% and occupancy at an all-time high, with a demand growth of 2.1%, which is projected to surpass 1.9% supply growth. Additionally, planners can expect to see less bang for their buck as costs go up and complimentary services go down. Meeting Professionals International’s Meetings Outlook Winter 2016 projects price changes over 2016 that outstrip expected cost-of-living increases.

So how can planners combat this seller’s market and score the best deal? We’ve compiled 5 tried-and-true tips to help nail down that first-choice property:

1) Demonstrate the value of the meeting.

It’s not just the client who is interested in how the meeting benefits them. Do your research and be able to demonstrate the value of your meeting using data and historical trends. This will give you wiggle room in the cost negotiations.

2) Leverage flexible date patterns.

Just as with personal travel, there can be an unbelievable price difference between a Monday – Thursday pattern versus a Friday – Monday pattern for group bookings. Even minor shifts in days can result in large savings. Be open to alternatives!

3) Match your rooms to meeting space ratio.

Hotels want to see equal rooms-to-meeting space ratios. If they’re devoting 40% of their sleeping rooms to you, they won’t be thrilled if you only take up 20% of their meeting space. Group food and beverage is an important revenue source for hotels, and they won’t want to miss out on additional options for that income in order to accommodate your sleeping room needs. (Bonus hint: leverage that profit center and offer to increase your F&B in exchange for discounted or waived meeting room rentals.)

4) Get in early. No, really early.

With the economy strengthening and hotel supply remaining stagnant, lead times have increased. A full 45% of hotels said they book more than a year out, while 41% said they book between 7 and 12 months out.

5) Book off-season when possible.

If you hit a property in its off-peak season, you automatically increase your negotiation power. Not only is availability increased, but properties are more eager to fill their space. Win-win!

And don’t forget to bring in reinforcements.

Working with a professional team like Wellington lends significant power to your negotiations with hotels. Not only do we possess years of experience negotiating to decrease costs and increase value, but we also have the added benefit of relationships we’ve established with hotels worldwide over those years. Contact us to learn more about how we can benefit you in your efforts!

Curating Eco-Friendly Events

It’s nearly misguided to call being eco-friendly a trend these days – being environmentally mindful about choosing properties, vendors, gifts, and more is a serious asset to the event planner, especially when the goal is to make sure you are maintaining corporate social responsibility.

There are several considerations when planning a green event or meeting but there are a few key choices that can help guide any planning process towards an eco-friendly outcome.

1: Pick your event or meeting property wisely

When planning for an event with the environment in mind, starting with the right venue and or/hotel can help set the tone for the rest of the planning process and the event itself. It’s easy to find a place that uses recycled napkins and claims to be “green,” but it can be a challenge to find a property that truly goes above and beyond in its commitment to the environment and its commitment to the high-quality service your attendees deserve. You’ll have to begin early to research all of the details to ensure you pick the right venue for your needs. An example of a property that is committed to living up the green label is the 1 Hotel in South Beach. Each aspect of the property demonstrates responsible sourcing and stewardship, right down to the eco-friendly sugarcane hard hats crew were required to wear when building the property. Choosing the right property can help you find the level of green that is right for you and your client. When you get a handle of the property’s environmental responsibilities and commitments, you’ll be able to assess what you need for the rest of your planning process to be an environmental and economic success.

2: Don’t forget to consider your gifts

To make an event be truly green, make attendees feel personally involved in the initiative. One of the simplest and most impactful ways to do this is through the gifts and promotional products you distribute to your attendees. Gift vendors offer a wide range of green options such as seed paper products, recycled materials, and sustainably sourced products. But the real challenge is finding something truly unique and memorable while still maintaining the highest standard for eco-friendly goods. Consider up-cycled high-end handbags, unique wine glasses made out of recycled glass, or gifts made from genuine reclaimed wood. Regardless of the type of environmentally friendly gifts you should choose, remember to tell the story of the item. It will make your attendees feel closer to the experience knowing the backstory and the role that they play in these pieces. Were the monogrammed cutting boards made from 100-year-old reclaimed barn wood? Will the jotting pads distributed throughout the week grow into wildflowers if thrown into some soil? Spend some time telling the story of the event, and attendees are sure to remember the experience.

3: Focus on local

Going local when choosing activities and specific vendors is a strong choice for your meeting or event. Not only can you save on shipping and transportation, you support a local economy and cut carbon emissions by keeping your choices local. A fantastic meal option that encompasses the best of this movement are farm-to-table restaurant experiences. You can make this as immersive an experience for attendees as you like – many farm-to-table operations have the option for guests to pick the food from the local garden beforehand and assist in the preparation. Choosing farm-to-table foods will make you’ll feel good knowing that the dining experience was good for the environment and memorable for your attendees. For a unique gift experience, consider utilizing a local vendor to create a pop-up store where attendees can choose what they’d like. On incentive trips, this has the added benefit of bringing some of the destination’s culture to your event, along with the local gifts.

Approaching the planning of a green event or meeting can easily become overwhelming. But we often tell our clients that the options are more than you might think and they give you new opportunities for creativity and for creating a truly memorable program that has a positive impact on both your attendees and the environment.

Long-Distance Planning: International Events

Being an event professional comes with a lot of challenges – you are often dealing with hotels, entertainers, decorators, various technologies, food and beverage services, and an entire on-site staff. But what if you have a meeting or event that needs to go out of the country?

Now, on top of everything, you’re facing late-night conference calls and waiting for hours on email confirmations. Add in customs and a language barrier, and it might seem like too much to handle. The best way to tackle this challenge if is to be armed with all the information you can find and remember a few key tips.

1: Start as early as you can.

When you’re working with a 6+ hour difference in time and a customs process that may be slow, the earlier you start planning, the better. You need to be prepared to deal with hiccups along the way and have everything shipped as much as 3 weeks before the program begins. If something goes wrong the difference between detour and disaster is cushion time.

2: Consider using a Destination Management Company, or DMC

If you’re unfamiliar with a city or region a DMC can be invaluable in the planning process. Consider them experts on the ground that can help you navigate more like a local. From tours and ground transportation to restaurants and off-site recommendations they can be a good resource. Choosing a good DMC is worth the time and can sometimes save you from inflated processes that come with being a foreign customer.

3: Drive the bus – be in charge of keeping detailed records over email and on the phone.

Having good records of what was discussed and decided can help shorten and cut off potential issues. Making sure you keep details in writing will be an immense help if something doesn’t go according to plan. One great tactic is to send follow-up emails with recaps on every decision made after a call with anyone at your destination. Good advice in any situation, detailed accounts of communication becomes essential when navigating the increased complexity of an international meeting or event.

4: Go with the flow.

This is true for any event you plan, but it’s important to remember when everything with your hotel in Turks and Caicos seems like a logistical nightmare: Not everything will go according to plan but you’ve got this. The mark of a truly great event professional is the ability to adapt, stay positive and take everything into stride. The relationships and trust you’ve forged with your planning team and the team at your destination will carry you through.