How Planners Can Boost Their Negotiating Power

When meeting planners begin the negotiation process, a long list of questions is weighing on their brains. Will surging hotel demand mean even higher room rates for attendees? Can they secure strong F&B concessions based on their historical data? Will there be enough space available in the convention center during preferred dates?

Negotiating isn’t always easy, but Lorne Edwards, the director of sales at Visit Phoenix, says there is one way meeting planners can empower themselves during the process.

“If a planner can commit to bring their business back to the city for multiple years, it allows for greater negotiation power,” Edwards says. “Hotels will be apt to extend more favorable rate thresholds and healthier concession package offerings if a group will book multiple years, and our convention center can offer opportunities to negotiate more favorable rental structures.”

“It’s our way of demonstrating the city’s own commitment to keep attendees wanting to return for the next conference,” Edwards adds.

More Than Money

While concessions and lower rates are good news for any meeting planner, Rich Cerino, director of convention services at Visit Phoenix, says dollar signs are just one piece of the puzzle in a successful planning process.

“Money is not always the driving force behind our clients who rebook for multiple years,” Cerino says. “Sometimes, a client may need help securing more space or assistance with transportation or catering. Because we already know the organization, we can better anticipate those needs.”

Cerino adds: “They don’t have to spend as much time giving us the information because we already know it.”

Cerino, Edwards and the Visit Phoenix team realize that time is just as important as money for meeting planners with packed schedules.

“We know that while our clients are working on conferences in Phoenix, they’re also working to plan seven other programs and negotiate other contracts at the same time,” Cerino says. “The knowledge we already have from their previous meetings frees them up to be more productive and allows them to focus on creating an engaging experience.”

Building a Lasting Network

In addition to saving time and money, Edwards says rebooking a city for a regular rotation gives meeting planners a community they can count on.

“We don’t want our clients to just have a convention and leave,” Edwards says. “We want them to know that people in our city recognize the value of their business and want to support their organization every time they’re in town.

“One of our goals is to educate all our local stakeholders — our hotel community, our greater hospitality community and anyone who may have a vested interested in the meeting’s program — about who the group is, what they’re doing here and why they’re important to the city.”

“At the end of the day,” Edwards adds, “meeting planners, exhibitors and attendees all want to be in a place where they’re appreciated and where they’re understood.”

To learn more about what makes Phoenix that kind of place, click here.


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