Resorts 'Resorting' To Name Change

Has your company created an outright ban on holding events at hotels with the word "resort" in their name? If so, you might want to re-think such a sweeping gesture, especially if you're e-sourcing and resorts are responding with competitive rates and services.

I mention this because of a front page Wall Street Journal article I read this week that profiles the desperate fortunes of many resorts. The piece says that some are (pardon the pun) resorting to dropping the word "Resort" from their names. For example, Charlotte,  N.C.-based Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge last summer ditched "Resort" from its name, "after several corporate clients indicated it would have a better chance of landing their business if it weren't called a resort," said the Journal. Likewise, Loews Lake Las Vegas--with a white sand beach in the middle of the desert and a master sushi chef--dropped its "Resort"  naming too.

This has all been prompted by the lingering "AIG effect," specifically, the public outcry that arose when the bailed out insurer canceled a 2008 sales retreat at the St. Regis Monarch Beach resort in Dana Point, CA. (By the way, that hotel is now in foreclosure.) The perception was that AIG and other TARP recipients were spending public tax money on so-called frivolous, lavish events. Even some non-TARP companies have been canceling corporate events over misperceptions about meetings.

Honestly, much of this is avoidable and unnecessary -- and a real shame. The problem is not in a resort's facilities (spas, gourmet restaurants and the like), but when companies book them in an unmanaged way -- that is, without efficiently soliciting bids from competing properties and negotiating meeting and room rates.  In fact, it's been my experience that resorts, depending on their bookings demand and seasonal rates, will respond to an e-RFP  with bids that are at par or lower than non-resorts.  Resorts tend to have all-inclusive fees, too, which if broken down by value, can come out to be a better deal for each participant.  And the icing on the cake at resorts is that your attendees can indulge themselves in amenities on their off hours and on their own dime.  Bottom line is this, if you have a well documented sourcing process, you can easily push back and justify your venue choices whether or not they have the word “Resort” in their branding.

Canceling meetings at resorts to avoid criticism may not be the wisest decision, either. Unless you have created and use as standard practice, contract addendums that limit your exposure to cancellation and attrition fees, you'll wind up losing a lot of money by switching venues just to avoid the “negative perception.” Companies that cancel resort events would be better off negotiating with the resort to apply the cancellation fee toward a future event -- once the critical spotlight has dimmed.

Corporate events at resorts are not evil. In fact, they're good when they're strategically sourced, documented and managed as part of an overall SMMP. They're often great value for the purchasing dollar, and they reward hard-working employees or business partners.

It's not the name of a hotel that counts, it's the value, services and return on investment you get from holding a corporate meeting there.  If you can’t justify your venue selections with solid sourcing data to your bosses much less the general public, then the negative perceptions of meetings will continue to be front page news.

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