Even though the year is new and winter snow is still falling, it’s not too early to prepare for when the majority of hotel RFPs (requests for proposal) start pouring in. RFP “season”—the period when most of the RFPs for the following year are generated—starts in mid to late summer and runs into early fall. Since the best RFP solutions involve early preparation, starting now will improve your chances of landing a healthy share of business conferences and meetings.
Solution #1: Realize the Ball(room) Is in Your Court
If your hotel is part of a larger chain or international brand, don’t assume there’s a corporate sales team standing ready to funnel RFPs in your direction. In general, they’re thinking globally, not locally or even regionally like you are. It’s up to you to reach out to businesses in your region and put your hotel on their short list.
Even if you’re fortunate enough to have a corporate-level staff working with you, remember that they don’t know your hotel’s capabilities as well as you. They may think they’re doing you a favor by screening out RFPs that aren’t an exact fit for your facility, when in reality, you could find ways to make them work. Avoid this by keeping the lines of communication open.
Solution #2: Hone Your Competitive Edge
Knowing your competitors’ biggest meeting clients can be as simple as keeping an eye on their front-yard marquee or the “what’s new” page of their web site. If you think your hotel can host an event better, let those businesses know what your facility has to offer, and do it well before the RFP season starts. If nothing else, the possibility to network is worth the effort.
Solution #3: Pick up Loose Ends
Another one of the RFP solutions you may not have considered is contact management software. If you noticed a business that’s regularly sent you RFPs didn’t send one last year, now is the time to pick up the phone or send an email to touch base. Perhaps there was a change in personnel, and the new meeting planner is starting from scratch. Make sure you put your hotel back on their distribution list.
Solution #4: Tap Into Consortia
Travel agencies often work together to market to and meet the massive travel needs of large corporations and government entities. Hotels can tap into this source of potential RFPs. Even if you have to pay a fee to gain access to these potential clients, the increase in exposure can be worth it.
Solution #5: Review Last Year’s RFP Results
Which of last year’s RFP responses didn’t result in a booking? Do you know why? Make a friendly call to the meeting planner to find out where your facility—or just the RFP—fell short. Ask what information is needed to get your hotel shortlisted the next time around. Showing that you care can prevent your hotel from getting dropped from a hotel’s RFP distribution list.
Solution #6: Simplify from the Start
No matter how great your RFP solutions, the repetitive submission/consideration/acceptance process, year after year, can start feeling like a grind. Give yourself and your clients a break that benefits you both. Offer a multi-year contract to book their conferences and meetings at your hotel. You’ll have that business on your books, and they’ll no longer need to spend time and resources searching for a new venue each year.
The downside to this solution: Hotel rates are difficult to predict from year to year, much less vendor costs for putting on a big meeting or conference. While this approach may work for some clients, it’s not a panacea.
Solution #7: Focus on the Off-Season
Worried that your hotel is getting lost in the crush of July-September RFP submission season? Get a jump on the competition and start making contact with your potential clients a few months early.
Solution #8: Know What Clients Want
“What does this client want?” is the million-dollar question, right? These days, meeting planners choose hotel venues based on more than just the cost for rooms, facilities, and food. More and more want to know things like your hotel’s carbon footprint, locally sourced food options, and if you serve only fair-trade coffee. See the solution above about reviewing the reasons why your hotel didn’t make the grade during last year’s round of RFPs. If you notice a trend, pay attention.
If you’re ramping up for RFP season, Smart eHotels™ has your RFP solutions! Contact us today.