the value of building relationships with hotels

Hyatt Regency San Antonio Q Bar

I follow several event planning blogs, including Social Tables. They had a good post yesterday about building relationships between hotels and planners. I agree with everything in the article, but it inspired me to write this post just to expound on one point that Social Tables made a bit further: the need for honest communication and building relationships.

Hotel sales people are busy. Event and meeting planners are busy. So why don’t we figure out how to work together in a way that doesn’t waste each others time?

For me, it’s all about communication and honesty. Planners are often so afraid to share information with hotels in the bidding stage – especially when it comes to the “b” word – Budget.  Planners seem to never want to share that magic number with hotels. They are afraid of losing their bargaining position, that they won’t be able to negotiate. But think of the flip side – if I have a budget of $10,000 for a meeting, and a hotel can’t possible service my meeting for less than $30,000, I would be wasting the hotel’s time, which I feel is a bit disrespectful.

But let’s be honest – everything is negotiable. Just because you throw out a number doesn’t mean you won’t be able to negotiate a better deal. Plus – the focus should be on the value of your event spend. It’s not just how much you spend, but what you get for that money.

That also doesn’t mean that planners shouldn’t dream big and still send RFPs to luxury hotels, as I’m consistently and pleasantly surprised how far those hotels often come down from their rack rates for group sales and meetings. But after the initial bid, if a hotel is clearly out of your price range, it’s best to let them know. Or, if the hotel is asking for your budget, give them a range and let them see if they can work something out for you.

I’m always careful to couch my budget numbers with some context which shows the hotel what matters most to me, because we all know that events and meetings are not a zero sum game and I know I sure don’t choose a venue on price alone. Things like service, the event space, VIP extras – these are all usually considered in addition to price. Security and privacy can be particularly important, enough to choose a much more expensive venue at times, just for the peace of mind.

That only scratches the surface of how you should be communicating with hotels. After you make a decision and sign the contract, it’s important to keep the hotel involved every step of the way. I always consider the hotel (and every vendor, really) as a partner in the event. They play a huge role in making my event a success. If I keep them informed – of changes, of priorities, of the goals of the event – I am more likely to be able to rely on their help, especially if something goes wrong.

Don’t underestimate the value in truly building a relationship with the hotels that you work with. Whether it’s for the duration of a single event, or if it’s a venue you use time and time again, it’s an invaluable relationship.

What are your thoughts on building relationships with hotel partners?

The top photo is of the Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk. I chose a photo of their hotel because even though I only had one conference there about five years ago, I still remember their staff so fondly, as they did a great job with our meeting. They were one of the first hotels where I realized the value of building a relationship.

Photo courtesy of the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau.