Top 10 Items To Consider When Selecting A Meeting Location
The location of your off site meeting, conference or incentive trip can be as important as the content. Consider this top ten list before beginning your search for a hotel or conference center.
1. LENGTH OF STAY – The number of nights / days of the program will help to determine the location. For example, a two night program will likely not go more than two to three hours of flying time but a four night stay could go five to six hours of flying time. You also do not want more than a 30 minute commute from the airport to the hotel for a shorter program but can stretch it to one hour for a longer conference.
2. PURPOSE OF TRIP – What kind of trip are you planning? Is it an incentive reward, a board meeting, a training class, customer appreciate event, new product launch, regional / national / global sales meeting? You would not select an airport hotel for an incentive trip anymore than you would book a Caribbean resort for a one day training class.
3. FORMAT OF PROGRAM – What is the day-to-day agenda for this event? Are the attendees at leisure all day every day? Are they in meetings all day? Do you need time / space for a trade show?
4. TIME OF YEAR – Keep in mind the season and weather at that time of year. This is not only for the destination selected but also the time of year can affect your departure cities. For example, if you have a two-day training session in February with most of the attendees coming from the Northeast, you can almost certainly expect flight delays due to winter weather. Similarly, heading to the Caribbean in August, prime hurricane season, you should make sure you have trip cancellation insurance that covers a possible storm.
5. DAYS OF THE EVENT – Some destinations are slower and offer better rates over weekends while others are peak on weekends and slower during the week. You should also consider local events taking place that may affect your program I.e. Mardi Gras in New Orleans or the Marathon in Boston.
6. REGIONAL ACTIVITIES – If you are planning an incentive reward trip or a customer appreciation event, be sure that there are enough off site tours and activities to entertain the group for the number of days you are at the destination.
7. TYPE OF PROPERTY / PERCEPTION – A.K.A the AIG effect! There are all different hotel types such as resort, airport hotel, city hotel and conference centers but you can also have a variety of service levels. Be sure that the type of hotel and the service level offered meet the needs of your attendee and company policy.
8. BUDGET – We are still in a buyer’s market with regards to groups and conventions but the industry is on the upswing. The luxury segment has seen the largest rebound in the first quarter of 2010 and the remaining segments are expected to rebound by the end of 2010. Even though rates are down, I encourage my clients to buy up and lock in for multi-year if possible. If you have historically paid $200 room rates for a 3 star hotel but the 3 star hotels are now at $100, don’t just try to save money. Spend that same $200 and move up to a four diamond service and lock in. When that four diamond hotel recovers and is once again charging $300 rates, you will be the hero for getting a good deal.
9. PASSPORTS – Know who the attendees are. Are they well-travelled? Does everyone have a passport? Be sure that if you select a destination with passport requirements and an attendee does not have one, who is going to pay for it?
10. HOTEL CHAIN / BRAND LOYALTY – Many of the major hotel chains have loyalty programs in place with rewards and points awarded to both the planner and the individual guests. Find out if this is a determining factor in your decision and what the company policy is with regards to the points. There are some companies that mandate that they will not accept points as they see them as a “kickback”.