Is Your Meetings Policy Strong Enough for Today's Tough Negotiating Scene?

How interesting that there's been so much talk lately about traditional corporate travel and meetings policies losing impact, when it looks like this year compliance to use of preferred suppliers will be more important than ever.

In a new story in BTN about negotiated corporate rates rising around the world, it was clear that many hotels this year adopted tough stands on such issues as terms and conditions and amenities. One analyst quoted in the piece, Carlson Wagonlit Travel project manager Sherie Hermann, said that some key global chains raised their minimum room-night thresholds, while others opted out of granting buyers a 6 p.m. cancellation policy. She added that "several hotels" that have previously given two-year rates "decided not to honor them" this year.

Other analysts in BTN's article foresee a tough year ahead, as hotels keep a closer eye on end-user behavior to determine whether companies are fulfilling volume commitments. "This will be a very key year, because suppliers are more likely to track and monitor overall production and hold clients to their commitments," said American Express Business Travel consulting director Marwan Batrouni, in the story. "Suppliers are looking for clear commitments and indications for their clients that their properties will be used."

In other words, hotels are definitely in the driver's seat -- with corporate rates on the rise, global demand forecast to be steady and property building limited mostly to developing markets.

It's essential then that corporate travel and meeting managers:

- Review current policies to ensure they align to the most current marketplace conditions
- Beef them up if need be (Yes, if the corporate culture fits, add penalties for non-compliance)
- Know your spend data for transient and meetings, and negotiate smartly and firmly
- Review your spend data and negotiate concessions based on moving market share
- Get senior executive endorsement of any changes and updates to policy
- Communicate new policies to all travelers and meeting attendees

As the business travel and meetings industries recover, now is the time to take note of the new, tougher attitude among suppliers and leverage your hotel and meeting spend more wisely!

Kevin Iwamoto is vice president of enterprise strategy at StarCite. This post is excerpted with permission from his blog, Strategic Meetings Management.