February 29, 2012

The RFP explosion


Love them or lament them, e-RFPs have changed the booking landscape. That means, says, Michael Dominguez, vice president, global sales, for Loews Hotels and Resorts in New York, “you need to learn the new rules of engagement.”

It was a paradox when, during the depths of the economic downturn in 2009 as meetings business was dropping off rapidly, the number of requests for proposal coming to InterContinental Hotels Group was increasing dramatically, says Stephen Powell, senior vice president, worldwide sales, at IHG in Atlanta. Fewer meetings were being sourced, but electronic RFPs were exploding.

Only five years ago, around 15 percent of all leads came through electronic means. Now, according to interviews with hoteliers, e-RFPs represent the majority of leads. And since meetings business has begun to pick up, the volume of RFPs coming into hotels has rocketed even higher. Technology and the proliferation of third-party RFP and sourcing sites have made it fast and easy for planners to send their meeting specs to multiple properties with the press of a key.

But with that progress come challenges. Hoteliers find themselves struggling to respond to the volume of RFPs, while planners lament the lack of timeliness and accuracy in responses. And what of the planner/supplier relationship? Do e-RFPs make the process more transactional?

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