Supply and demand
It’s a fact. Hotel demand is far outpacing the supply right now. While hotels may want to accommodate your group over your preferred dates, it's more likely they can’t. They just don’t have the availability they had even a few years ago. Giving hotels the opportunity to find other dates for your meeting not only opens up more options but can also earn you generous savings in return for your flexibility.
You might say, “Wait a minute. I’m usually not flexible on my dates. My boss wants it when she wants it.” This is not unusual. You should still allow the hotel to give you alternate date options because you may find that none of your hotel choices have availability. What then? You now have to be flexible. Avoid the duplicate work and check all availability up front.
Here’s how it’s done. Add this sentence to the top your next RFP:
“Although the dates are firm, we’ll consider flexibility in our dates if your offer justifies the change.”
This simple statement is likely to get you offers from most of the hotels on your list. It also eliminates extra work on your end if you’re forced to be flexible after finding no availability elsewhere.
If a hotel comes back with “No Availability” or makes an offer that exceeds your budget, ask them this question:
“Where can you put my meeting that makes the most sense for your hotel and helps me reduce my costs?”
The answer you get back from the hotel may open up your options to add value and improve your event experience. See, maybe your dates are flexible.
After you’ve signed a contract
As soon as your contract is signed with the hotel, send the sales manager and your conference service manager a quick note asking them to identify your group in their system as the first one to call if they need a group to be flexible.
Why is this important? Hotels are constantly working to complete their “occupancy puzzle.” Chances are, after they’ve booked your meeting they may have an opportunity to book another group overlapping your dates. A minor adjustment to your group’s agenda may fit them perfectly into the hotel’s “puzzle.” Indicating your flexibility sets the tone for the relationship by offering to help up-front. You’re not saying you will be flexible – just that you want the first option to say yes or no. It’s a no-lose offer for both sides.
Most groups have some level of flexibility in their program, especially if there’s enough time to react. The requested changes may vary. They may ask if you could simply change meeting rooms, or if you could adjust your arrival/departure dates. Often you’ll be rewarded for your flexibility with some type of incentive or additional concessions, so it’s well worth consideration.
It’s also good karma. Meeting planners who practice flexibility often find hotels will return the favor and “bend over backwards” for them in times of need.