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The Dilemma

Posted on September 13, 2006

By Bill Heaney

A few years ago, a national hotel brand was offering Palm Pilot electronic organizing devices to meeting planners who booked a qualifying program at one of their hotels. At the time, I was supervising several hotels that already had the program in place.

First, it reminded me of a program I once ran in an off shore destination famous for a certain kind of jewelry. One of the big attractions for attendees was to have an opportunity to shop for this jewelry. In the destination, the various jewelers competed to organize hosting the

attendees in their stores. One day, a very reputable and well known jeweler came to me and explained that they would be giving 10% commission for recommending their shops over others. Word was they were the best and most reliable, so to help the attendees avoid the more scrupulous vendors, this jeweler was chosen to recommend to them.

The question was posed, "Where did I want the commission money to go?" I replied, "To the company that I represented."

Well, what a surprise when a few months later into the program, the owner of the jewelry company asked to meet me. I was the first planner who had said, "Send the commission to the company." Was I naive or what!

Second, while the Palm Pilot program was going on, I heard stories of planners who wanted it delivered to their home, their boss, or just picked up discreetly. I sensed some discomfort, but at the same time, the program was really successful in getting incremental meetings business.

Today, the meeting planning industry is faced with a similar dilemma with gift incentives and loyalty club points being offered from myriad sources. It is important to point out that it seems the rewards are there even after very favorable negotiations on the part of the meeting planner, and for like and similar facilities and services.

From the hotelier's point of view, the rewards are a way of competing for the planner's business and hopefully getting some attention by way of a site review, and of course, a potential piece of business.

As an hotelier, how important is it that these programs be competitive? I am not convinced that there are planners who book a program solely because of an awards-based thought (unlike the road warrior point junkies). Many questions exist:

-Should hotels offer these awards?

-Should meeting planners take them?

-Do the awards, in fact, affect the negotiation?

-Do these incentives (and I assume that is what you call them) make planners uncomfortable?

-Do hotels and hotel companies hurt themselves by offering the awards?

-Has this become an industry standard?

I would be interested in your thoughts.


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