This month our regular columnist Des Mclaughlin tackles the issue of whether a preferred hotel programme might be a good idea
Q: Our company has an annual meetings spend of approx £2m. We don’t currently run a preferred hotel programme. Should we be looking to set one up and what does this entail?
DM: The good news is that you know what your company is spending on meetings. It’s amazing how many companies don’t and it’s very difficult to put a meaningful meetings programme in place without this information. The second thing you need is the buy-in from all those with budget responsibility for meetings. If they are not prepared to adhere to the programme then it is doomed from the start.
If you have both of the above then you can begin to look at how you can leverage your meetings spend more effectively.
Are you currently using multiple suppliers? If so, by offering all your business to one or two hotel groups you should be able to improve on existing rates. If you’re not comfortable negotiating directly with the venues then there are plenty of agents who make a living doing this for clients.
A good agent will also be able to negotiate global deals on your behalf if you are part of an international organisation and/or hold events overseas.
You or your agent should also be looking at harmonising contractual and cancellation terms. In return for your sizeable financial commitment to the venues you should, in return, enjoy favourable terms around deposits, etc and not be dictated to by the venue but come up with a contract that’s fair to both parties.
Finally, you will need to either use the agents’ meetings technology or research the market for a suitable solution. This will allow you to analyse spend, share company diaries, streamline payment processes and support internal communications.
The above will give you a good foundation to build on and should ensure immediate cost savings for your company. The next stage is to look at how to measure and evaluate the meetings which is not straightforward and needs to be tackled separately.