Let’s face it. Finding a “reunion-friendly” hotel can sometimes feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. Once you find a hotel who seems like a good candidate, you may encounter some points of friction from what you expect versus what they are offering. Here are three tips to creating a scenario where both you and the hotel’s sales staff can happily agree before signing a contract.
1) Come prepared with an RFP
Reunion planners should come prepared for their intial meeting with hotels. I suggest creating a one to two page Request for Proposal (RFP) outlining details that the hotel will need to know about your group.
These items include:
host hotels and cities
number of rooms utilized per night
room rates for the past three to five years
Also, it's important to note that including a rough schedule of your reunion and requested concessions (i.e. comp policy, parking, and hospitality space needs) gets the negotiations moving faster than starting from scratch. It also assists the hotel sales professionals in understanding your group’s needs.
2) Have a Plan A and a Plan B
Using your RFP, create a mental list of items which you MUST have and items you are willing to concede.
For example, is the hotel requesting the alcohol be purchased from them?
Consider asking them if they would charge a set percentage over their cost. They are buying beverages at wholesale rates so, even after a small markup, you may still save money.
In addition to not having to purchase an ABC permit in certain states, I’ve seen some hotels provide a keg versus bottles and cans for a better quality beverage.
Another example of a plan A and B falls under the much-discussed topic of attrition.
If a hotel requires attrition, offer to have attrition apply only after a certain date (based on rooms booked up to that point) such as 21 or 30 days prior to the reunion.
An alternative I’ve seen is to offer to have contracted rooms drop from your block after a specific date. There is bound to be a solution to make both parties comfortable in the final stages of negotiation.
3) Herding cats is not a fun game
If there is one thing that frustrates hotel salespeople more than anything else, it has to be constantly following up with clients to get information. By eliminating this frustration, sales teams feel more comfortable with you when you respond to them quickly. Whether it be a simple question before they quote you a price or asking for a signed copy of the contract back, you can make your group stand out by being prompt and responsive.
Imagine the feeling of pleasant astonishment you’d give a hotel salesperson if you contact them with the payment, deposit, or headcount a week or two before they need it. While a subtle and polite item, you’d be surprised how much time salespeople spend doing small tasks like this. They may even return the kind act if you need something small during your reunion.
4) Understand not all hotels are created equal
Did you get a stellar concession from a hotel last year, such as a complimentary welcome reception or better than average comp room policy? It hopefully should come as no surprise to you that not every reunion friendly hotel is able to offer the same amenities to you each year.
Embracing this should help reduce your stress levels when a hotel politely declines to honor your request for a complimentary light dinner. I refer you to numbers 1 and 2 above and 5 below for ideas to help you with this challenge.
5) Start with the CVB before calling hotels
How many hotels do you call, on average, for each reunion? Sure, there are resources to identify reunion friendly hotels but there is one undisputedly valuable resource for reunion planners: the local Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).
The CVB in the destination you’re searching will know which hotels welcome more military reunion groups than others. They can help point you in their direction and can connect you with the sales team for a smooth booking process. Better yet, the CVB can send your RFP to the appropriate hotels on your behalf without you having to make a single phone call.