As Association Professionals with limited budgets it is easy to automatically review an RFP for future venues and go straight to the overnight room rate or the whether or not there is a room rental. But, if you are designing experiences for your members, that means more than saving a few dollars. Your association has to create a compelling reason for your members to choose your conference, so taking the time to leverage your hotel relationships beyond just a contractual obligation is paramount to a successful event. Here are five tips to strengthen your hotel partnerships that will lead to more robust attendee experiences:
- Be realistic. The fact of the matter is, associations – who are notorious space hogs, are finding it harder than ever to find the right venue at the right time and price for their meetings. In 2020 we had a collective shift, we changed, and our members changed. What we once asked for in our RFPs is no longer relevant. What concessions are you asking for and what is the monetary value? Have that conversation with the hotel/venue on what is the absolute deal breaker. And make sure you are having that same discussion with your Board so everyone is informed and has realistic expectations. Concessions like room upgrades for a handful of people does not translate to a VIP experience for all attendees.
- Share a compelling story. Venues receive countless RFPs each week, what makes yours special? It is time to go beyond blindly sending a blanket RFP to sharing the potential your association offers the hotel beyond this one event. After you have dusted off those old RFPs, make sure you are creating a narrative that demonstrates your commitment to the hotel/brand beyond a single moment in time. By considering multiple events, you show the potential for future partnerships which gives you an edge and some additional bargaining power to add on experiential opportunities for your stakeholders!
- Get to know your Partners. Partnering with a hotel is more long term and less 90 day Fiancé. When you have sent a balanced RFP and shared your unique partnership opportunity you can open the door to a true partnership with a hotel. These relationships can lead to cost savings, reduced risks and innovative solutions, which all translate to a better attendee experience. Taking the time to get to know your hotel partners is an investment that will yield substantial benefits over time.
- Minimize Risk. Associations learned more than we ever imagined about contract clauses and event insurance during the Pandemic. Those associations that had developed deep relationships with the hotels that they contracted with found it easier to renegotiate contracts that were no longer viable. When issues or conflicts arise, having a good relationship with your hotel can lead to faster and more effective problem resolution which in turn minimizes disruptions and maintains a positive stakeholder experience.
- Connect in the Community. We all know that CSR is important to your stakeholders, not only because it aligns with their values, but also because it can provide an opportunity for learning and networking. Oftentimes our meetings are held in cities that we are not as familiar with, so relying on our hotel partners to connect us to the needs of their local community is essential. When you have a strong relationship with your hotel partner you can leverage their connections to focus on sustainability and social responsibility within your meetings.
Remember, building and maintaining strong hotel relationships requires open and honest communication, trust, and a willingness to work together to create successful events. By nurturing these relationships, your association can access a range of benefits that enhance your stakeholders’ experiences at your meetings.