Last week we looked at how utilizing a site selection service can add great value and be a huge help to the already pressed-for-time meeting planner. This week I want to focus on what you should know to further protect yourself and be informed when retaining the services of a site selection firm.
- Ask for references. This seems logical, but it does not always happen. Why not spend just a few minutes calling or emailing a few of the service’s clients to find out about their experiences and ask the questions that you may not wish to present to the site selection manager?
- If the service is reputable they should volunteer how they are paid and be happy to explain to you the workings of their fee structure. They should be willing to disclose all entities that are to be paid, how the firm will collect its fees, as well as put it all in writing. Full disclosure can prevent potential problems down the road. FYI – the common rate tends to be 10% of guest room revenue.
- A reputable site selection firm will also be happy to share any partnerships or agreements they have worked out with hotels and/or other service providers and venues.
- Be sure you are clear that commissions are only procured through the meetings you book through them. You should be able to book meetings at the same venues later on down the road without having to pay additional commissions. For example, if you are not happy with the site selection firm and later fire them, you should be able to bring your next meeting back to the same venue, and book it directly with the venue, without the site selection firm collecting additional commission.
- Make sure you are clear on their role. Typically the site selection firm will research destinations on your behalf and negotiate the terms of contract to best suit your meetings needs.
- You should sign the contract from the venue. In other words, there should be no changes made to the contract of which you are not aware and you should always have final say as is evident by your signature.
- From your end you also need to make sure you are not causing any possible future problems. Do not hire more than one site selection firm at a time; double dipping will do you no favors in the end. Also, if you have already discussed rates with a hotel, do not bring in a site selection firm after the fact.
- Know the difference between a site selection firm, a hotel rep firm and a meeting management firm. A hotel rep firm will only book member hotels, which could limit your choices and negotiating ability. A meeting management firm is hired to help with everything from site-selection, marketing, menu planning, and entertainment to on-site management. Their fees may include a flat fee for the planning portion as well as a commission from the hotel, if they procured the rooms and negotiated the contract on your behalf.
As a HelmsBriscoe Site Selection Manager, I am more than happy to supply you with references, explain our fee structure, and share with you the services we provide to our clients. Our firm has a well earned reputation for full disclosure of our fee structure and policies, as well and making our clients our number one priority!