Meeting Planners Pressured by Management,
Customers and Members

By David M. Brudney, ISHC, June 2009

Meeting planner guru Joan Eisenstodt responded to my “Meeting Planners and Hotel Suppliers: Let’s Be Fair” article of last month calling for “a whole bunch of cooperation” right now in hopes that when we do come out of this recession, “we can do business smarter next time.”

Eisenstodt agreed that it’s good that meetings are being booked again, but that it’s “bad that some of the contracted rates are sometimes as much as 75 percent higher than the published rates” for a given period of time.

“This is a time when planners are feeling the pressure from management, customers and members to get lowered rates - - rates from those (already) contracted.”  She’s so right.  Many members of my own professional consulting society - - feeling the pinch like everyone else - - are checking the Internet almost daily searching for a lower room rate for a neighboring hotel or B&B close to the large, full service, host hotel we selected more than two years ago.

Perception of politically incorrect excessive indulgence is not going away.  The “perception” problem with corporate groups meeting at high-end resort destinations appears to be not going away soon.  I had a conversation recently with a senior sales and marketing executive of one of the most revered trophy resorts.  He told me about a financial institution client that had booked the resort every year going back to the 1970s and had just cancelled their 2010 meeting despite having to pay nearly US$1 Million in cancellation fees.

The resort executive told me that this group realizes US$12 Million in new business as a result of this particular meeting and when he told the client that it just didn’t make sense to cancel such a successful R.O.I. event and have to pay nearly US$1 Million to do so, the client responded very solemnly, “it’s the perception.”  Avoiding the perception of excessive indulgence at what price? 

Planners are nervous about service.  A planner for a large insurance company told me that he is “scared to death” over what to expect when he holds his next large meeting in 2010.  “Our group is used to the finest in service,” he said.  “Frankly, with the huge discounted rates negotiated, I don’t see how the resort we selected can perform.  I know we are going to have some very unhappy campers.”

Planners still have huge issues with hotel sales associates.  Planners have been telling me for some time now that they delete e-mails from hotel sales associates unknown (sales associate or hotel) to them.  In addition, I’m told planners prefer not to communicate with hotel sales associates that make contact “blind” with no prior knowledge or data on the group’s profile or past history, “rookies” that don’t know their stuff (yet), and those that don’t return phone calls and/or those that don’t respond to RFPs promptly.

I’m told as well that one of the biggest pet peeves planners have with hotel sales associates is in their frustration in trying to find ones that can say “yes” to a request or to a planner’s counter-proposal.  Far too much time is wasted, I’m told, with sales associates having to go up the chain of command for official approval prior to confirming anything to the planner.

Hotel management company CMO is against client interface.  One hospitality consultant and long-time reader told me that a chief marketing officer representing a fairly large hotel management company does not want his sales people to “interface” with planners or wholesalers.  Hello?  No, that was not a misprint.  Someone need to tell that CMO that in selling our destinations and lodging products to planners we “live” by relationships and use technology only for support.  Despite the evolution of technical communication tools such as e-mail, texting, and now twittering and social media, every sales associate in the business today must have a solid foundation in relationship-based selling skills such as telephone, personal sales calls, face-to-face personal sales calls and entertainment, and the all-important trade shows.

Kudos to The Breakers Palm Beach - - after being forced to cut employee weekly hours back from 40 to 30, The Breakers Palm Beach management is paying all affected employees for 10 hours of community service.  How’s that for fostering strong employee relationships?

I welcome your feedback on my position here - - share your comments below, hotels sales associate and planner alike. 

© Copyright 2009

David M. Brudney, ISHC, is a veteran hospitality sales and marketing professional concluding his fourth decade of service to the hospitality industry.  Brudney advises lodging owners, lenders, asset managers and operators on hotel sales and marketing “best practices” and conducts reviews of hospitality (as well as other industry) sales and marketing operations throughout the U.S. and overseas.  The principal of David Brudney & Associates of Carlsbad, CA, a sales and marketing consulting firm specializing in the hospitality industry since 1979, Brudney is a frequent lecturer, instructor and speaker.  He is a charter member of International Society of Hospitality Consultants.  Previously, Brudney held hospitality sales and marketing positions with Hyatt, Westin and Marriott.


David M. Brudney, ISHC, Principal 
David Brudney & Associates 
Carlsbad, CA 
760-476-0830 Fax 760-476-0860 
(c) 760-994-9266

Also See Meeting Planners and Hotel Suppliers: Let’s Be Fair / David M. Brudney / June 2009
Time for Hotel Sales Professionals to Lobby Meeting Planners / David M. Brudney / April 2009
This is No time for Hotels to Cut Back on Sales and Marketing / David Brudney / February 2009
When in Doubt, Always Make That Call: New Generation of Hospitality Sales Professionals Lesson #14 / David Brudney/ November 2008
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