How Resorts and Hotels Win My Business

Recently, I was asked by Rick Blackburn, the V.P. Of Sales at the Greater Palm Springs CVB to share my opinion on hot topics for meeting professionals and hoteliers

There are several issues which “keep me up at night”:

In regard to Futuristic Thinking: I believe that business in the hospitality industry will always be about two parties working together to bring the meeting and travel experience to a satisfied end user; our customer.  Hotel rooms are not a commodity!  I don’t buy from Tweets, Facebook posts, or an e-mail from a sales manager I’ve never met.  After 30 years in the meeting planning profession, I have been through several peaks and valleys.  At this stage of the game, we are experiencing a seller’s market.  Once again, clients are frustrated and we are fortunate to rely on many years of relationship building when hotels are overvalued and service and contracting suffers.  We build relationships which matter and the negotiation works best when both sides respect each other.

Revenue Managers:  Even though revenue management is the name of the game, no one wants to hear about it.  It is most disturbing when sales people say something condescending such as “Our team is going to evaluate your business”.  This happened last week in NYC.  By the time the sales manager responded, I had the competitor’s contract on my desk ready to send the client.   It has become cut throat, and I’ve lost space I was holding at three hotels this year.  One was over 1000 room nights with a resort where we’d done business for two prior programs and they gave our space to another group, an FIT group at that.  The client and I raised such a fuss, they finally relented and reinstated, but it was a nightmare.   (I asked them if they were familiar with LinkedIn.  Yes, my first option was in writing.)

Resort Fees:  We are not stupid.  These resort fees simply add revenue and typically little value, and non-commissionable to boot.  We always fight resort fees.  If revenue managers were smart enough to put value into the resort fee, they wouldn’t get so much push back.  Examples would be parking, internet, arrival beverages, and water.  But instead, they include things we don’t typically use like poolside towels, exercise rooms, and newspapers?  Hmmmm, I have to wonder, who creates the list?  Any planner who has more than a year under their belt will fight these fees, and we are going to the mat on them.  Even the hotels that always touted, “we don’t charge resort fees” are now charging these fees.

Service:  We are now negotiating all food and beverage up front.  We have been forced to do this, as prices have spiraled out of control.  We just had a lunch this spring in Miami where the hotel was charging $65 for a sandwich and the rate was $590 per guest room!  As we all know, BEOs trump the contract and the outrageous rates we are seeing for simple food is nothing but astounding.  I remember the days where the higher priced food was justified as it was supposed to compensate the hotel for the meeting room.  Now hotels want to charge for both; an inflated price for food and beverage and a meeting room rental.  One of the exercises I go through with the sales manager is to have them explain the math on the food and beverage minimum and over 75% of the time, the math is incorrect.

I believe that hotels are throwing revenue away by not providing service to their customers.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat at a hotel pool on a hot afternoon, and there is no beverage or food service.  I was recently in South Carolina at an ocean front resort on one of the very first spring days where it hit 80 degrees.   Although there was a server at the pool restaurant, there was no service.  Try sitting at the pool over the next ten hotel stays to see if this is true.  It is the same when we call the hotel and ask to speak to someone. We hear on numerous occasions they are in a “revenue meeting”, while we are holding on the phone trying to give them revenue.  What if there was a rotation so someone could answer client requests so they could SELL to customers, and the others attend the revenue meeting.  We use the phone as a quick way to communicate, because e-mail no longer brings us a quick response.  When we want a fast answer we phone.  Yes, the low-tech, old-fashioned phone.  As you know at Marriott, it is next to impossible to speak to a salesperson on site.  The brands who will do the best in the future are the ones which will maintain frequent contact.  For the motivated salesperson picking up the phone and asking for the business would be a huge opportunity for a sale.  The first thing they ask us is if there any meetings they can help with?  What I want to know is what your property has to offer, such as has the ballroom been renovated lately, are the guest rooms new, have you added a restaurant?  Why should I buy your hotel? How can I sell your hotel to my client?  What are the attractions in the area.  What do I see when I walk out the front door of the hotel?

The hotels which will win the business are those who maintain a personal relationship with our team at CRI Meetings and therefore our clients reap the benefit.


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