Sector discussion says don’t trust hotel charts

Representatives from nine Canadian incentive houses begin their Journey of the Senses tour of India’s Golden Triangle organized by Creative Travel. (Allan Lynch photo)

A LinkedIn discussion is headlined: Hotel capacity charts – don’t trust them

For years professional meeting planners have complained about the poor quality information hotels – and convention centres – provide about their property. Whether hoteliers know and ignore this or are deaf to the complaints, planners are not happy with the industry’s incomplete and inaccurate information. Room capacity, number of spaces, size and other physical amenities are static and should be easily verifiable and accurate. But they’re not.

Twenty-eight North American planners learning about the seaside opportunities and unique spaces in Halifax. (Allan Lynch Photo)

Hoteliers tell me that meetings represent 30 percent of their revenue. So, why are properties not paying more attention to the sector? In a recent interview with a planner, who has experience with MPI and PCMA, I said it seems as if hotels don’t listen to clients. The planner replied, “They don’t.”

The current LinkedIn discussion includes these comments:

From a planner: “Meeting space is priority #1 for my group. I’ve received some very strange proposals over the years, trying to squeeze me into the wrong space.”

A VP of a Texas-based management services company: “My rule of thumb is to take whatever the hotel

More meeting planners discover Canada’s birthplace, Charlottetown. (Allan Lynch Photo)

suggests as capacity and cut it by 25%. For some reasons, most hotels are completely incapable of measuring the dimensions of their rooms accurately.”

A Kansas planner: “…been in the business for 35+ years and it’s always been a challenge.”

Another planner: “ I recently looked at a hotel’s event space that was advertised as fitting 40 people….but they failed to mention that it is an L-shaped space, so nearly 1/3 of the attendees would be around the corner from the speaker & projector.”

The Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos relaunches after a devastating hurricane closed the property for a year. (Allan Lynch Photo)

A hotelier responded: “on the Hotel Sales side of things, our capacity charts are not intended for what you are looking for. They are not designed to be a stand alone tool. These charts that hotels produce are used as a point of reference but more importantly to have people engage in a conversation about the event.”

In response to the above an events manager wrote: “the hotel capacity charts are often used by meeting planners who are considering properties to send RFPs. If they are not inherently realistic, they are wasting time. We all respect the sales pressure to acquire new business, but ceiling height, low chandeliers, posts, cut-outs for air-wall storage and low hanging air wall soffits are real issues not properly disclosed in sales brochures or web sites.”

My response to the hotelier who says capacity charts are not intended for the way planners use

One of the meeting spaces in Halifax’s refurbished Lord Nelson Hotel. (Allan Lynch Photo)

them is to ask if there is any caveat on the capacity charts warning planners not to take these dimensions seriously? How does a planner know these aren’t accurate? And if they’re not to be used in the manner planners use them, why are they there?

The idea of capacity charts as a place from which to start a conversation is a passé concept illustrating the disconnect between seller and buyer. Planners today are really time-pressed. They’re often pulling together a client proposal from the road or in the evening or on a weekend. They don’t have time or the inclination to call a property. They specifically don’t want to engage in any conversation with anyone they can’t first qualify.

The Charlottetown Convention Centre’s main ballroom. (Allan Lynch Photo)

On the flip side, hoteliers are frustrated that the traditional sales channels have been interrupted by the use of automated third party RFPs. Hotel sales managers are frustrated that they can’t suggest a better date and don’t know the client. I suggest planners are being driven to these third parties by the volume of bad information produced by properties.

There could be a lot less wasted time if accurate and thoughtful information targeted to this 30 percent of business were produced by sellers.

Whether you’re an independent or chain flag, an off-site venue, convention centre or destination marketing organization, I can help. I have 25 years experience covering the world’s meeting and incentive sector. I have listened to planners speak about their frustrations with suppliers and about what they want and need to know. Contact me:  nscelt@hotmail.com

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