Event Planning

Ten items plus one bonus item to note when putting together your hotel event budget

Congratulations! You are the official "event planner" for an upcoming program. With your new found responsibility, you may want to take a quick survey of the below tips that may give you more room in your budget…:

1) Season/Dates: some locations have a high and low season. Depending upon dates, considerable price differences can be found. Also, if your group can meet over or around any holidays, that is worth bringing to the attention of hotel planner as well.

a. Research: if you have selected a city, research dates where the city has large festivals, citywide conventions, special events (ie the Superbowl), etc. If it is still possible for you to change your dates, you may want to plan your meeting either a week prior-to or post important city events. Planning your event over the same time frame could prove costly, and very chaotic for your attendees.

2) Day of week pattern: many hotels either have a greater need for business on the weekend or during the weekdays. For example, a hotel in a corporate park may be very nice, but offers great rates over the weekend. Conversely, there may be a beautiful resort that has trouble filling during the weekdays.

3) Are the hotel rates offered for single occupancy, or for multiple persons in the same room? Often, a room rate will meet your budget, but if your group is such that you will have up to four people in the room, you may find yourself with a tiered rate which adds anywhere from $10-30 per additional person occupying each hotel room. When posting your request make sure to select the correct room types so the hotel group rates will have the highest accuracy.

4) Look for additional costs up-front using the hotel info button to the left of any hotel bids: are there any resort fees at the property of interest? How about parking charges? Does the hotel allow pets, and if so, do additional fees apply? Are there any mandatory fees on top of hotel occupancy taxes? These additional fees can result in a considerable amount of money, and some are negotiable, depending upon how well your business is a fit at that particular hotel property.

a. Look for anything is included in the rate: some hotels will include a free breakfast, afternoon receptions open to guests of the property, fitness center access, or Internet access with the purchase of a guestroom. These niceties are not only a cost savings, but can add to the overall experience at the hotel property. These value added deals will be listed in the comments section of any hotel bids right below the hotel group rate.

5) Food and Beverage: if you are planning to have a banquet event during your visit make sure to list the information in your group request, this will make sure only hotels that can accommodate your banquet needs will respond. Also hotels that have banquet space are more likely to block group room space and give additional discounts if the group is using their food and beverage services and banquet facilities. Once you have located a hotel with all the services you require within your budget use the contact hotel button for a set of menus. Check Service Charge and Tax. On top of the banquet menu pricing, these fees will add anywhere from 20-40% in additional costs. Ways to defray costs:

a. HotelPlanner.com will attempt to negotiate your group a 20% to 50% discount on food and beverage. Check the comments section of hotel bids for these discounts.

b. Come up with a sample menu and cost you would expect to pay, inclusive, to present to your hotel. For example, pitch a breakfast inclusive of various breakfast breads, fruit juice, and coffee/tea, for an inclusive price of $your targeted/budgeted amount per person, and see if they can alter their menus to meet your budget. Most Hotel Planner hotels will offer free breakfast for your group, this value added will also be listed in the hotel bid comments section.

c. Take a look at the menus at the hotel restaurants. If your group is small, you may want to take advantage of simply dining in the hotel restaurant, or in a nearby eatery.

6) Audiovisual: relay your audiovisual needs to your hotel planner sales representative and ask for an individual quote. One expensive item is the rental of an LCD player. Sometimes, it is more lucrative to purchase your own, however, be sure to ask your representative about any "connection" fees for bringing in your own equipment.

7) Meeting room rental: if your guestrooms match the number or persons in your meetings, you will likely have more negotiating room with meeting room rental. If your group requires exhibits, a great deal of breakouts, or a larger meeting room (say for 100 people, and you are contracting 10 guestrooms per night), expect to pay some meeting room rental. Hotel Planner can leverage your power against paying meeting room rental if: a) your group is meeting over a "need period" (ie a holiday and/or during low season); b) you have a high food and beverage spend per room night (ie you have your attendees eating breakfast, lunch, am and pm snack breaks, and a reception/dinner); c) your event will completely sell out the hotel property you have selected.

8) Proximity to activities: is your group one that will have many nights free, or are you planning on scheduling off-site activities for your group? In either case, if attendees are able to walk to various local attractions, it can help defray costs on you as the planner or the individual attendee. If your group has many nights free, and there are attractions within walking distance, attendees will appreciate not having to pay cab fares, retrieve their car out of the garage, and figure out driving directions in a foreign city. If you are planning off-site activities, transportation to and from an offsite venue can be a considerable expense. If you select a hotel close to numerous event location possibilities, and attendees can walk, that is one cost saved. Click on the hotel information button to the left of the hotel bid to view a map of the surrounding areas with a list of local attractions to the right of the map and distance of each local attraction to your hotel. Hotel Planner can also sort all your hotel options by distance to any specific location. Check the sort by box at the top of the hotel bids.

9) Transportation: if many of your attendees are arriving via plane, take a quick survey of flight pricing from main cities over the dates of your prospective events. If you are looking at multiple cities, you may find one is far more reasonable than another. Likewise, use your hotel information button to the left of each hotel bid to receive information about shuttle and taxi costs from the airport, as well as time to travel from the airport to the selected hotel property.

10) Upgrades and amenities: your Hotel Planner representative will always ask if your group can get one free upgrade to a suite at the group rate; or a free amenity for one of your VIP attendees. These special touches are noticed by your group and can be provided at no additional cost to you.

11) One more bonus! One per Fifty Comp: this is a standard at most hotels, where for every fifty rooms picked up by a group, one is free! Some hotels offer one per fifty complimentary only when fifty or more are picked up PER NIGHT. Other properties will credit this on a cumulative basis. Some properties will offer one per forty complimentary, or even less. Hotel Planner works with a lot of hotels that offer the free room for as little as 10 rooms per night. These free room deals will be presented in the comments section under the hotel group room rate bid.

Good luck and happy negotiations! You are now on your way to event planning bliss!