Hospitality Industry Career Opportunities

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to work for your favorite search directory, now is your chance! conventionplanit job openings

ConventionPlanit.com has openings for the following positions:

Regional Director of Sales

    Sell online marketing solutions to hotels, resorts, CVBs, and other service providers. Position entails phone sales for website listings, advertising and e-marketing features. Additional training will be provided. A minimum of five years of sales experience as well as basic computer skills are required. To apply, or for additional information, please send cover letter and resume to

info@conventionplanit.com.

Marketing Manager

    Working from home as an independent contractor, the Marketing Manager arranges sales appointments with designated hospitality suppliers, i.e., hotel sales directors, VP of management companies, CVB marketing directors, for assigned ConventionPlanit.com sales directors to demo and close the sale. This individual may flexibly set their own hours and focus on the best time to reach their clients, given the various time zones. Clients are retrieved from our CMS database as well as specific lists in which special pricing was coordinated. Additional training will be provided. To apply, or for additional information, please send cover letter and resume to

info@conventionplanit.com

    .

Super Bowl-Caliber Meetings

visit jacksonvilleEven when the Jaguars aren’t playing football, you can still have a ball with colleagues and clients at EverBank Field by holding a Super Bowl-caliber meeting or event at the stadium.

Because at EverBank Field, you can pretty much rent everything from the players’ locker room to the entire playing field for gatherings small and intimate or large and grand.

Speaking of grand, did you know that EverBank Field is home to the world’s largest scoreboard? That’s right, the ginormous video board sits high above brand new cabanas and swimming pools as part of a $63 million renovation, and is 60 feet high, 362 feet long, and contains 35.5 million LED bulbs. Now imagine giving a presentation or pitching your clients using that puppy.

Game over.

You can even arrange for appearances by Jaxson de Ville, the Jaguars’ mascot, and the ROAR, the Jaguars’ cheerleaders. Plus, you can sample catered food prepared by Levy Restaurants. So when the Jags aren’t putting in work on the field, the turf is all yours—all 160,000 square feet of it. Endzone to endzone, here’s a breakdown of what EverBank Field has to offer local businesses on the field and off.

Learn more about Visit Jacksonville.

Five Reasons to Use RFP Organization

rfp organizationCollecting RFP responses can be a hassle, but it does not have to be.

Here are five reasons you should give ConventionPlanit.com’s RFP Organization a try:

1. RFP responses are organized on a comparison chart for you
2. Receive quotes fast and by your deadline
3. No training or RFP templates – submit your RFP in your own format
4. Receive personalized consultation & expertise
5. Complimentary service and commitment free

To start using RFP Organization, email your RFP to info@conventionplanit.com.

Sun, Surf & Success in South Beach

surfcomber

Miami’s South Beach is a world-famous tropical playground of sun and fun. As a Kimpton hotel directly on the beach, Surfcomber plays right into that reputation. We also know how to channel it properly into a productive, memorable meeting for your group.

Witness our 50,000 square feet of beautiful outdoor event space. Brainstorm in a cabana overlooking the pool and the sea. Host a meet-and-greet around our shimmering pool, surrounded by towering palm trees. Between the pool and the beach is our private sandy oasis — no other South Beach hotel has anything quite like it. There we can host team-building games like bocci ball and volleyball, or a lovely dinner with string lights above.

Inside, we offer 3,120 square feet of air-conditioned meeting rooms awash with natural light, some with ocean views. After hours, your group can mingle with the locals at The Social Club, featuring creative American fare. Or drift outside to High Tide bar and grill. Located in the colorful Art Deco district, Surfcomber is also walking and biking distance (attendees have complimentary use of bikes while they’re here) from shopping, dining, galleries and nightlife.

Learn more about the Surfcomber.

IMEX America Stats

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Ray Bloom talked about breaking records for the fifth year in a row! Here are a few stats:

14,250 participants including buyers, visitors and exhibitors

70,000 individual and group appointments along with stand presentations took place

69% or more of appointments included a profile or RFP

269 educational sessions

800 exhibitors and buyers participated in the IMEXrun Las Vegas routed along the famous Strip

As always, all attendees fortunate enough to attend IMEX America were exposed to high levels of business and networking.

Along with the record number of appointments and packed-out education events, some of the novel ideas to encourage mingling in the various stands included toe-tapping to an Irish fiddler, an oxygen station to boost energy levels (VERY popular), a chance to “monkey around” with a really cute orangutan and a sugar jolt provided by the winner of the “best ice cream in the world contest”.

Leave it to IMEX America to always deliver professionalism with a light touch!

IMEX America Hustling and Bustling

IMEX America is consistent in its attempts to reduce their environmental footprint resulting from hosting 11,000 attendees, 3,250 exhibitors and occupying 14,000 room nights in participating hotels.

This was actioned by initiatives that ranged from encouraging attendees (prior to the show) to pack a reusable travel cup for coffee/tea to sponsoring a group of “Garbage Grabbers” (not a lyrical title but states the obvious) to clean up a local park.  Ray Bloom, IMEX Group Chairman is one of the best at having his organization lead by example!

Liz Duxbury of the CP.com Hosted Buyer Group is waylaid in the aisle by a representative of Indonesia. At this event, the world truly comes to you!

Liz Duxbury of the CP.com Hosted Buyer Group is waylaid in the aisle by a representative of Indonesia. At this event, the world truly comes to you!

Representatives from CP.com supplier partners had a good showing in the hall. Among them were:

Roman Muska – The Prague Convention Bureau

Marie McKown – Meet in Ireland

Anette Palm and Alice Lem – Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre

Julie Dodds & Jim Henderson – Visit Anchorage

Susan Hennig – United Airlines

Sarah Calhoon – World Marketing Group

IMEX America Sets New Records

The 3rd Presidential Debate held in Las Vegas last week took a back seat as IMEX America set new records all around the show!

CP.com Hosted Buyer Group and escort, Maureen Pickell, ready to learn about Malaysia!

CP.com Hosted Buyer Group and escort, Maureen Pickell, ready to learn about Malaysia!

Your intrepid blogger is happy to bring you the “show buzz” for this annual extravaganza’s sixth edition.  The “largest ever IMEX America” boasted more than 3,250 exhibitors representing 139 countries interacting with 3,000 buyers who participated in 60,000 individual appointments.

And, once again ConventionPlanit.com sponsored a group of Hosted Buyers to participate in the shows’ innovative agenda enabling them to:

  • Conduct up to a year’s worth of global business in only 2-3 days… without needing a passport
  • Learn from the best minds in the business during the Education sessions
  • Enjoy both professional and personal networking

Our corporate and association planners also participated in Group Appointments with CP.com supplier partners from the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau, the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism.

Group Meetings: New Trends Affecting Convention Room Blocks

ConventionPlanit.com Principal & Co-Founder Katherine Markham authored the following article, which originally appeared on HotelExecutive.com.

The economy is showing signs of improvement and hotels are reporting record profits. Yet the trends that are affecting convention room blocks today as well as vexing meeting planners are rooted in the past trials of the Great Recession. ConventionPlanit.com looked to its own Advisory Council, supplier members and industry leaders for feedback on the factors that are eroding meeting and convention room blocks.

Supply & Demand

There’s no doubt we’re in a seller’s market and many say we may be headed for a ‘buyer’s market.’ Cyclical timing is critical for hotels capitalizing during gainful times while making up for previous losses from ‘buyer market’ years. Supply and demand in any given time plays a major role. In cities that refrained from hotel ‘new builds’ during the bubble years, group room availability is now in low supply. As a result, these cities are experiencing an upswing in demand and attaining higher rates with new developments on the horizon. Hotels in boomtowns often impose a 30 day convention cut-off date to sell their rooms to higher rated short term business travelers.

While in more over-developed destinations like New York City where rates are traditionally high, soft corporate demand and excessive hotel inventory have created a fierce and unprecedented competition for occupancy by lowering rates. Due to fiscal uncertainties in the recent past, booking business a few months out was the standard. Geoff Heuchling, Senior Director of e-Commerce for Marriott Hotels is reporting record high group bookings; and any anxiety a planner had over the economy has been replaced by concern over securing essential meeting space. Mr. Heuchling notes that meeting planners are now booking several years ahead. According to meeting planners, convention bureaus as well as hotels are requiring the commitment of a high ratio of hotel rooms to allocate adequate meeting space.

Sharing – Economy Influences

During the recession, shared-economy, booking sites soared offering competitive rates. Convention attendees continue to search online and compare hotel rates on 3rd party booking sites for the best deal over their convention dates. Unexpectedly, Airbnb emerged to permanently challenge the industry by appealing to a growing demographic of thrifty millennials. Planners attribute permanent erosion in their room block to shared economy booking sites, including the underestimated impact of Airbnb.

The International Association of Professional Organizers (IAPO) revealed in a 2015 study that the shared-economy is denigrating the number of hotel room nights booked by meeting planners. IACPO members planned 4,537 events in 2015, which is up by over 3,000 in the year prior. However, the number of room nights booked by their members including association, corporate and government, decreased by 2.43 million room nights.

Recent industry studies indicate that one out of three rooms are booked outside the contracted room block, and for city wide conventions, the average is about 45%. Ironically, destinations struggling with insufficient hotel rooms for city wide conventions are welcoming creative alternatives that also include cruise ships docked for overflow.

Windy Christner, Senior Director of Meetings & Expositions for the American Pharmacists Association contracts a ‘lowest rate’ confirmation over their Annual Meeting dates in order to mitigate problematic ‘wholesale’ rates through 3rd party booking sites.

This is a challenging issue for hotels that need to maintain high daily occupancies. When faced with booking rooms for a single day on which they desperately need business, they may offer competitive rates that are lower than the convention rate and cover a few days before and after the needed dates. The convention cut-off date protects the hotel by liberating them to sell last minute rooms either higher or lower than the convention rate, based upon supply and demand. To control their inventories, Hotel chains are now advertising a book direct policy to obtain the best possible rate and other incentives are slowly being included such as free Wi-Fi.

Rogue housing companies have been around for some time, but they escalated during the Great Recession to poach room night commissions and erode room block consumption. Room piracy has cost the industry millions in hotel revenue and the organization faces stiff attrition fees by the loss. Attendees also pay the price by losing deposits or imposed cancellation fees as well as access to room drops, announcements, free shuttle, food and networking events. Attempting to acquire meeting space for future conventions is also challenging when there is a record of weak room pick up. Piracy is getting easier due to mock Websites and Twitter. And because these unofficial housing companies appear authentic, a meeting’s management team may be unaware that rooms are being poached. When organizations post their member lists on their Websites, it becomes public domain and open season for fraudulent companies to contact attendees with sold out scare tactics.

Research conducted by the Convention Industry Council found that 73.1% of 655 meeting professionals who responded to their 2014 survey had conventions targeted by piracy. And yet a majority of them had not developed preventive measures. Meeting planners must make their attendees aware of this problem, since it’s not going away anytime soon.
Meeting planners who use commissionable RFP sourcing sites may not be aware of the hidden fees or mark-ups that impact their rates as it may not appear in their contract. Although hotels claim that these fees are the cost of doing business, they may increase the rate to compensate for commissions they must pay out. The rate therefore may not be the lowest intended or available for attendees.

Attrition, Attrition, Attrition

Meeting planners are frustrated by the lack of control they have over their room blocks, citing that delegates are attending the convention, even though they may not book within the room block. Leslie Zeck, CMP, CMM, Director of Meetings for the International Dental Research Association, is obtaining non-negotiable quotes that include a 5-6% increase per year on convention room rates. What happens if a few years from now the pendulum swings back to a buyer’s market? The organization will be saddled with overpriced rooms and thousands of dollars in penalties.

Planners are tentative about signing guarantees that render their organization liable for exorbitant penalties, especially when attendees today are going around the block using 3rd party booking sites. Ms. Zeck has recently contracted with a housing company that has the clout of working with several major organizations and can negotiate more effectively on behalf of IADR.

For organizations that include a rebate to pay for items like shuttle transportation, they depend upon room fulfillment to pay for these types of services. As meeting space is often tied to room night consumption, an unexpected fee for meeting space may also be incurred when anticipated fulfillment is reduced.

Dave Williams, CMP, President, Administrative Management Services, Inc. didn’t anticipate a decline in oil prices that would impact revenues by his corporate members and now he is forced to factor in attrition fees. He references his 3 considerations for every meeting includes sponsorships, registration fees and expenses which must balance out. If sponsorships are coming in low or expenses like attrition fees are high, member registration fees will go up. Somehow expenses to the organization must be covered, even when members create the problem by staying outside the room block. This is a complex problem and although he consistently communicates with his members to book early and within the block, the reality is that his attendees are price savvy. Mr. Williams suggests having good relationships with suppliers. “This is a relationship industry and having durable relationships with suppliers serves to strengthen loyalties so that attrition costs may instead be converted into a future booking commitment.”

The 2015 IACPO study revealed the average number of participants per event also fell by 9% in 2015, which was the lowest since 2010. In the wake of the Great Recession, we continue to see competition for convention attendance. Meeting planners are reducing registration fees by cutting back on meals and shuttle transportation. Attendees have choices and are favoring outlying hotels that are accessible to restaurants and activities. As a result, destinations that are walkable to eateries are preferred over convention center access, although both components help. When eateries are far from the convention center, a drop in room night fulfillment is detected.

Terrence Donnelly, Vice President for Experient references the sluggishness by attendees in booking their rooms. Exhibiting companies book rooms near the center early, because they’re sure they’re going. Attendees may not be as certain or crunched for time and often scrambling the last minute to find rooms. In higher demand cities, last minute rooms are typically not the lowest rate and this too affects attendance. Mr. Donnelly suggests that planners reserve a separate block for attendees. Corporations that block a number of rooms through their travel agencies book early, but often at lower rates and commissionable.

Future Outlook

Although the meetings industry is showing progress and the economic impact of conventions remains strong, savvy delegates are cutting costs and seeking affordable options – a new normal in the wake of the Great Recession. All indications point to a rise of bookings outside the room block. Bank of America Merrill Lynch has recently downgraded hotel stocks in anticipation of growth by sharing-economy suppliers.

Some say that room blocks may be a thing of the past and that delegates may simply go to hotel website to obtain their 10% discount based on prevailing rates. In any case, technology may present innovative solutions in the future for hotels and meeting planners alike. To improve revenue management practices, it is likely that Hotels will gain better control over rate comparisons in the marketplace by calibrating rates based upon supply & demand, similar to the airline industry.

Obtaining hotel rooms and meeting space that will be needed for future conventions can be challenging when room block pick up is under reported. Tracking delegates via technology may be helpful in quantifying the economic impact for a destination.

Tips to Mitigate Attrition Factors:

  1. Avoid RFP sourcing channels that are not transparent about commissions or hidden fees. Guard against piracy.
  2. Review attendee history to understand their needs. Accommodate attendees with a separate room block and preferences they may have for lower priced hotel rooms or those nearest to eateries and the convention center. Promise low and deliver high by blocking less rooms and picking up more. Ask for 14 or 21 day cut-off versus 30 days where possible. Negotiate with hotels to honor the lowest rate available during the convention dates.
  3. Incentivize early bird reservations with 1 night room & tax deposits. Package registration discounts for staying within the room block. Communicate with members regularly to book their rooms, the importance of staying within the room block and avoiding piracy by using special housing codes. Insist that exhibitors reserve sleeping rooms within your contracted room block.
  4. Monitor weekly pick-up reports and reduce or move room blocks before cut off dates where attrition fees kick in. Audit your rooms. All cumulative rooms may be counted in room block fulfillment including those pre and post the official convention dates. Complimentary rooms offered to the organization based upon pick-up must be credited towards any attrition fees. Re-sold rooms by hotels should not be included for attrition fees. Good historical room pick-up will enable you to negotiate better room blocks in the future.
  5. Budget for possible attrition. Offer to book another meeting that may be more valuable to a hotel to offset penalties.

Meeting planners are essentially ‘feeders’ of new business for hotels and ancillary, economic impact. Given the complexities of the situation, the solutions are also multi-dimensional. Whatever the circumstances, suppliers and meeting planners have a common goal to work together to stimulate business and avoid penalties.

What’s Next in Meeting Tech Tools?

By Al Rickard, CAE

Rapidly advancing technology is creating many exciting new options for meeting professionals.

Reggie Henry, chief information officer at ASAE, showcased some exciting new meeting technologies at an early-morning session at the recent ASAE Springtime Expo.

For example, he talked about “beacons,” which are electronic devices that can be placed anywhere at a meeting and are often used in exhibit halls to measure attendee traffic in real time that can be followed remotely. The beacons can detect the exact location of any attendee who has downloaded the meeting app and has Bluetooth enabled on their phone.

The data collected can help meeting planners identify low traffic areas and place food stations or other features in those areas of the exhibit hall to balance out traffic later in the show. The technology can also be used to monitor attendance at sessions and in other areas of the meeting.

The technology can also transmit any data that attendees have provided when they registered, such as their name, title, and organization. Henry even joked that a beacon located in an exhibit booth can provide real-time data on the visitors to the booth, allowing someone’s boss back at the office who is tracking the reports to send a text to their exhibit booth staff saying how excited they are about the traffic and the great leads that they expect the team to bring back.

He also demonstrated a tool called “Swivl” – a tripod with a swiveling top that can hold a smartphone and videotape a speaker as the person moves around the room. The video feed can be streamed through a tool such as Periscope, Facebook Live, or MeVee to provide a live broadcast of the session that can be viewed by attendees unable to get into a room that may be full or who could not attend the meeting. It can also be easily archived for future viewing on YouTube or other web platforms.

Henry also talked about “blab.im,” which is an online real-time room where people can chat and create their own session content. It can also be connected to a Twitter stream.

These and other new apps open the door for new ways to enhance the attendee experience, provide real-time data metrics for planners to improve meetings, and repurpose content for use beyond meetings.

Al Rickard, CAE, is president of Association Vision, a communications company based in the Washington, DC area, and director of communications for ConventionPlanit.com.

Barnyard to Boardroom

Open the barn door for an effective and different kind of meeting

By Deanna Zagin

Meeting professionals are continually challenged to deliver unique and meaningful experiences that benefit attendees’ lives both professionally and personally while also enhancing their workplace performance.

To solve this challenge, planners can incorporate a leadership and team building element into the meeting itinerary.  And here’s the inside scoop to turn this challenge into an opportunity to provide an innovative, fun and effective experience for the attendees:  HORSES.

What can horses, yes…real horses, teach humans about effective leadership and better team dynamics?

There is something profound and magical about a horse.  After all, horses have survived and adapted on this earth for more than 50 million years. They share in leadership, work in partnership, are emotionally flexible and live in a non-judgmental, caring and supporting environment.  In short, horses can serve as ideal role models for individual growth and superb team functionality.

Called Equine Assisted Learning (EAL), a small group of participants partner with horses in a series of well-planned activities to gain and practice real-world skills to cultivate and enhance their leadership, communication and interpersonal skills and create collaborative team environments. Because individuals and groups often behave the same way whether in the barnyard, the boardroom, or in the office, the EAL experience becomes a metaphor for organizational behavior. Even better, there is no riding involved or horse experience required, so everyone can enjoy participating and learning from the horses.

Horses are extraordinary animals to be around and interact with because, like humans, they are social animals with their own characteristics and moods. soccer horse

Horses are prey animals. A prey animal is hunted by another for food. Survival is programmed in their DNA. They are constantly aware of everything that is going on around them, continually evaluating and interpreting their environment. They can very accurately sense a person’s level of trust, confidence, awareness and authenticity.  As a result, they are experts at mirroring back human emotions and behaviors. They do so unconditionally, without judgment or biases. Horses don’t care about a person’s status or title, race or creed. The horses’ immediate and honest feedback enhances one’s ability to lead with authenticity, consistency, focus, intention and direction – honing one’s emotional and sensitivity skills.

Why are horses so helpful? They are herd animals who seek safety in numbers by banding together for their survival. Their herd mentality is based on the need for cooperation, teamwork, trust and loyalty. The herd consists of well-structured groups of horses of distinct leaders and followers with each of the members having their own role. The herd must work together for its well-being and survival. By partnering with horses and learning from their herd dynamics, teams establish a relationship based on mutual trust and respect, and are reminded that everyone matters.  This reminds all of the need to communicate clearly a shared vision and purpose, resulting in better team dynamics – honing their social intelligence skills.

The EAL experience provides attendees with a unique, fun and educational opportunity as well as memories that can last a life time.  Participants arrive curious, interact with the horses, have a blast and walk away with life skills that support and strengthen their own herd – whether in or outside the boardroom.

Meeting professionals, meanwhile, find a great solution to their challenge to provide a unique and meaningful experience.

Just 18 miles south of Washington, DC on beautiful pastures in Northern Virginia, Unbridled Learning Solutions, LLC offers Equine Assisted Leadership and Team Development programs where groups and/or individuals partner with horses.  These highly interactive sessions with the horses provide a rewarding and powerful transforming experience.

Open the barn door and learn more at www.unbridledlearningsolutions.com.

Deanna Zagin has over 30 years of corporate experience and is a certified Equine Assisted Training Specialist.  An accomplished executive with experience in the Fortune 500 and leading association markets, she understands and faced the challenges of organizations and their leaders.  Reach her at deanna@unbridledlearningsolutions.com.