Hilton Cocoa Beach Grand Re-Opening!

Monday, May 19th, 2014

On May 14, we had the opportunity to attend the Hilton Cocoa Beach Grand Re-Opening.   The hotel looks spectacular and they have made so many updates:

  • New Meeting Space
  • New Guest Rooms
  • New Lobby
  • New Tiki Bar

They also offer ocean front function space for your next “WOW” event!

We snapped a few pictures:

Gary at Cocoa Beach Hilton Linda at Cocoa Beach Hilton


Need help planning your next meeting or event?  Call us today and we will get started!


How Resorts and Hotels Win My Business

Monday, May 19th, 2014

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.


Tax Savings for Corporate Meetings

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

We know a number of tips that can save corporations valuable dollars.  Since tax season is upon us, we are going to discuss how meetings at sea may offer tax and cost savings.

First, all tax questions should be posed directly to a tax accountant. With that being said here is some helpful information that we have found. For further reading, IRS Publication 463 provides all necessary information regarding the stipulations and documentation required to make such deductions. The following requirements must be met to deduct up to $2000.

  1. The convention, seminar or meeting is directly related to your trade or business
  2. The cruise ship is a vessel registered to the United States
  3. All of the cruise ship’s ports of call are in the United States or in possession of the United States.

Again, further documentation is required, but the above list contains the most general and necessary guidelines for deduction. Many cruise ships are foreign flagged, but Pride of America by NCL is a US vessel, and there are many river cruises sailed by American Queen Steamboat, American Cruise Lines, and Blount Small Ship Adventures.

Although the stipulations for tax deduction can be limiting, the overall value of holding a meeting at sea can balance the cost of a land based meeting or event. Cruise ships may offer complimentary gratuities, included shore trip excursions, and complimentary use of AV equipment and meeting space. One can also consider adding a land based meeting pre or post cruise to deduct other event, airfare, and hotel expenses.

Next time you are planning a meeting or event, consider a meeting at sea. With a wide range of cruise ships and itineraries available, there is something to fit your needs and we are here to help.

Source:  http://www.internationalmeetingsreview.com/internationmeetingsreview/ships-ahoy-part-4-how-meetings-sea-offer-tax-and-cost-savings-corporate-cl

Top 15 Reasons to Have your Next Corporate Meeting at Sea

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Meetings at Sea can be an exciting and attractive alternative for your next corporate meeting.  In addition to providing your attendees new and exotic venues AND savings up to 30%, we have put together our Top 15 reasons to try this option.

  1. Destination Variety
  2. Value:  All inclusive guaranteed budget helps with cost control.  This is almost always much less expensive than a comparable land program.
  3. Guaranteed cruise pricing:  No matter where in the world you go, there is no currency fluctuation.
  4. You get to visit multiple destinations BUT only have to pack and unpack once.
  5. There is a ship or vessel to fit every program level
  6. Complimentary meeting and function space which includes your A/V needs
  7. Increased flexibility with dining and private functions, as well as increased volume of themed and specialty restaurants.
  8. Charter flexibility.  You buy the number of nights you want and can customize your itinerary.
  9. Increased level of comfort for your attendees – luxurious bedding, flat screen televisions, increased cabin size and increase balcony staterooms
  10. Security – the high level of security on cruise lines has not changed
  11. Team Building Events – both onboard and offshore
  12. Customized Group Shore Excursions
  13. On board customization options
  14. On board group coordinators on most lines
  15. Dedicated Sales & Service Teams on most lines

Ready to explore this option?  Give us a call at 407-493-8860

Why Cruise Ships Provide a Welcomed Option for Meetings & Incentive Travel

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Are you looking for a new and exciting option for your company’s next meeting?  Do you want to offer an incentive vacation to your employees but are out of fresh ideas?  Consider cruising!

Cruising is fun and exciting for any meeting or vacation.  Your group can enjoy exotic ports of call, gourmet food, world class entertainment, and comfortable accommodations.  Yet, cruise ships are vastly underutilized for meetings.

Many are unaware that there is space for meetings and incentive travel on cruise ships.  Cruise lines are making their private spaces attractive and available for your event.  There are opportunities for meeting planners to tour ships and the cruise lines now offer a variety of tools including deck maps, color photos, and virtual tours.

CRI Meetings can guide you through the maze.  We have experience negotiating with the cruise lines – which is more rigorous than the average hotel.  We take the guess work out of contracting meeting space on ships and ease you through the contracting process.  We put guarantees in place to assure your event is successful.

There are many options in the cruise industry which allows great flexibility to meet your needs.  An ideal group meeting or incentive trip would include four to five nights of sailing, while six to eight nights are preferable for individual incentive travel.  There are private charters available with smaller cruise lines like SilverSea and Regent, which can host 50 to 500 guests and allows unlimited flexibility.  Booking in advance is key to achieving your meeting needs and enjoying costs savings.

Stay tuned for our next post where we will discuss how meetings at sea can offer tax and cost savings for the corporate client.