News for the Hospitality Executive
Recap HSMAI Hotel Sales Strategy Conference: Meeting
and Event Professionals
Tell Hotel Sales & Marketing Directors That Budgets Were Not Going Up and
They Better Get Online for Both RFPs and Bookings
|WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 6, 2007) – Meeting and event professionals
told a gathering of sales and marketing directors that budgets were not
going up and they better get online for both RFPs and bookings. They also
asked for more creativity in answering RFPs and transparency in negotiations
and contracts so that everyone knows what they are getting.
The advice came during the Voice of the Customer session that opened the first-ever Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Hotel Sales Strategy Conference for directors of sales and marketing held here this week. The session, moderated by Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHA, president and CEO of HSMAI, brought four diversified meeting and event planners together with the audience made up primarily of directors of sales and marketing from hotels, convention and visitor bureaus and others looking for their business.
When questioned about budgets for 2008, Lee Ann Adams Mikeman, Assistant Vice President for Conference Planning and Special Events at SAIC said: “Our budgets are going to remain the same, but we are trying to create more efficiencies by opening small meeting centers in our regional offices.” She also noted that attendance at the large events has fallen off in recent years, a fact that others on the panel and in the audience have also noticed.
Liz Jackson, Vice President, Meetings Management Group, said, “ROI is being pushed to the limit, which then impacts the budgets.”
Horacio Gavilan, CMP, Executive Director of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, said that “while business remains good, our meetings are well attended.” But he added, “We are looking at shifting some of our ancillary meeting costs from the association to the members so we can keep the price of attending at the same levels.”
Jackson agreed, adding: “Associations are more cost-conscious looking for savings by reducing the number of activities to save money.”
Timothy Burke, Director, Office of Travel and Transportation Services, Federal Acquisition Service, provided the government viewpoint noting that “we look at budgets differently and centralization is an important option for us within the government agencies. Most of what we do is regulated and must be transparent.”
The question of online RFPs and bookings led to a lot of discussion.
Mikeman noted that “Online bookings for meetings and RFPs online are increasing greatly and we are being evaluated on our programs and how we use technology.”
Jackson said: “It starts with the relationship we have developed with the convention manager and with the hotels,” but also noted, “our younger employees are spending their time online. We greatly value our suppliers who act as trusted advisors.”
Gavilan agreed: “Our team is under pressure and we use online services, but while we want to use the technology, we want to back it up with face-to-face meetings.”
Once again, Burke provided the government view adding, “what’s going to happen on the federal side is that we will have an electronic toolbox to work with. Similar to what has been developed in other travel areas, such as FedRooms.gov.”
Ending the session with some advice to the audience of sales and marketing professionals, Liz Jackson offered: “Those who respond to an RFP with creativity, even online, will succeed,” but quickly added that “many sales people today are not well trained to sell, especially on the telephone.”
She also suggested that hoteliers should “focus on transparency so everyone knows what to expect. We don’t want to sign a contract and find we have a lot of unexpected expenses.”
Mikeman suggested that everyone should respond to the RFPs and do follow-up calls. She also suggested that hotels work with meeting planners when needed to rebook cancelled space and “do understand that we consider you important partners.”
New Tools for Online Marketing
Gordon Liametz, president of Revenue Performance, a company devoted to Internet sales and marketing solutions, focused on securing group leads online. He provided a detailed look at some of the new tools for online marketing and emphasized that:
Bart Berkey, Director of Talent Acquisition, Sales and Marketing, for
Ritz-Carlton Hotels, emphasized the importance of finding the right talent.
“In today’s economy what you have to sell is only as good as who you have
selling it, and finding the best sales and marketing staff for your company
is as important as any of the amenities you offer guests.”
Julie Shen, Professional Training and Executive Coach with Master Connection Associates, helped attendees focus on leadership skills, noting: “All the knowledge in the world won’t matter if you can’t lead a team to success.”
“We all need to be better coaches and provide constructive feedback,”
Shen said, adding: “But we must also create the fun factor at work for
our employees. Making the workplace fun is no longer an option. We
have to learn how the younger generation wants to have fun at work.”
Sponsors of the event were Rudner Law Offices, SECURE-RES, TIG Global, Smith Travel Research and Open Hospitality. The HSMAI Hotel Sales Strategy Conference was organized by HSMAI and HSMAI’s Hotel Director of Sales & Marketing Special Interest Group Advisory Board.
HSMAI is an organization of sales and marketing professionals representing all segments of the hospitality industry. With a strong focus on education, HSMAI has become the industry champion in identifying and communicating trends in the hospitality industry, and bringing together customers and members at annual events, including HSMAI’s Affordable Meetings®. Founded in 1927, HSMAI is an individual membership organization comprising more than 7,000 members worldwide, with 39 chapters in the Americas Region.
Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International,
|Also See:||HSMAI Affordable Meetings West Recap: Meeting Planner Attendance Tops Prior Year, Educational Component Delivers / July 2007|