I’ve long said that meeting planners can’t do it all on their own. To succeed they need to surround themselves with a team of experts to make it all happen. And, that is what I did throughout my career.
One of the tasks I most liked about the meeting planning process was site, search and selection. I enjoyed the challenge of finding the right venue/destination for every meeting. I enjoyed the research, connections and relationships formed and the joy of seeing programs come to fruition.
When I was starting out in my career I handled meetings in the Twin Cities and surrounding area. I learned a great deal and became quite an expert on what we had available right in our own backyard.
I yearned for the day when I would have an opportunity to handle programs outside of Minnesota.
I’d go to MPI meetings and hear about all the wonderful places other planners were traveling to. Their trials and tribulations of working onsite, attached at the hip to their laptops. At that point, could only dream of what was to come.
What was I thinking!? It’s not as easy (nor as glamorous) as one would think.
And, then finally my chance came and I was tasked with handling our first senior management meeting with employees coming from all across the US, Canada, UK, Germany and elsewhere -- and they wanted the meeting in Arizona. Now what?
Early in my career, I met Doug Peterson who at the time represented what was then Prestige Resorts and Destinations, a hotel sourcing company founded in 1986, and based in Minneapolis, MN. Prestige provided a comprehensive site selection service to their clients.
It’s important to note here that I worked with other sourcing companies throughout my career who I have a great deal of respect. But, my first point of contact and introduction to hotel sourcing when I started in this business was with Doug and Prestige. And, it is this partnership that I focus on as I write about the benefits of sourcing from my perspective.
Definition of a Hotel Sourcing Company
A “hotel sourcing company” functions as a client advocate and an extension of you the planner. They are not limited to a particular roster of hotels; they can bring any appropriate option to the client that best fits the meeting specifications.
Sourcing companies are solution focused vs. lead generation focused. In the insurance world it would be like calling an independent insurance broker versus Allstate (a captive agent).
Their services are most often at no cost to meeting planners while “third party” services are fee based and bid by scope of work and customized to each client.
A “third party” tends to do more than just source hotels. They may support other elements of the planning process such as: air and ground; recreation and other activities (on or off-site); audio-visual, staging and production; on-line registration; on-site meeting management, etc.
They may be better known as full-service event management or incentive companies or independent planners. The larger of these companies often have teams dedicated to each of these elements including hotel sourcing, for instance.
A sourcing company sources venues on a client’s behalf by:
Submitting Request for Proposals (RFP) to a pre-agreed upon list of potential venues.
Collecting and compiling proposal responses.
Negotiating room rates, meeting/function space, and associated rental fees.
Pre-screening contracts to insure compliance.
Making sure your overall meeting needs and your company’s interests are best served.
They represent you AND your company; they are your strongest advocate. They are not your competition, nor by using them are they taking anything away from you. Rather, they are one of your strongest strategic partners.
They have well established working relationships with venues, while you and your company may be an unknown entity to them. Venues look at the volume of business the sourcing company brings to the table in total rather than perhaps your one and only program when considering a proposal.
Moving on ….
As I was making the transition from handling meetings only in the local market to national, I thoroughly enjoyed researching meeting venues and destinations and didn’t want to necessarily relinquish this responsibility to someone else. I also knew when it was in my best interest to do so while still remaining fully invested in the process.
I shared my list of preferred venues, destinations and meeting specs with Doug.
We strategized together, adding and deleting accordingly to come up with a comprehensive list of possibilities.
Proposals were submitted on my behalf based on each meeting’s specific requirements, terms and conditions.
After the proposals had been collected, I would receive a detailed grid showing available dates and rates, proposed function space and associated fees, and various facts about each property. From there, I was able to narrow down the list to my top three to five to share with my meeting hosts who had final decision-making responsibility. In addition, if a site inspection was required, Prestige would make all those arrangements on my behalf.
It was a great partnership. They would do what they did best, which freed me up to concentrate on the many other aspects of putting a successful meeting together which is really what it’s all about.
The key benefits of a sourcing company from my perspective:
1. They are an extension of you and your company.
2. They do what they do best while you continue to work through other aspects of the planning process.
3. They are advocates for their clients throughout the whole process. They are there from the introductory phase, the contract phase, pre-planning, on-site and post evaluation.
4. They have connections with global sales offices throughout the country and internationally and the buying power that comes from those connections that come back to you as a planner through better room rates and concessions.
5. Sourcing services are at “no cost” to the meeting planner client. They are compensated by vendors and operate like a distribution partner, and paid much like a real estate broker compensated based on results generated.
A New Chapter in Growth
In 2013, Prestige reorganized under the leadership of Doug Peterson and two partners, Jeff Canham and Chad Houwman who both brought a wealth of hospitality/meeting background along with key client relationships.
Since reorganizing Prestige added services and rebranded itself as Prestige | Global Meeting Source. The new name better reflects their global sourcing and meeting services platform.
Below is a short list of accomplishments as a result of the new ownership structure:
Expanded their North American sales force to 42 sales partners managing regional meeting planner relationships in their respective backyards.
Maintain a vetted network of DMCs both domestic and international.
Developed strong CVB ties throughout North America and around the world. These relationships bring a variety of value adds to their clients including marketing rebates, site, airfare, destination FAMs and other services.
Purchased GMI, a full-service event management company that now operates as the event services division of Prestige. This acquisition of GMI brought a very experienced events team with 35 years of background in serving as a full service meeting and incentive management provider.
In short, Prestige has become a total solution for meeting planners and a highly respected business provider to the global industry of hospitality and destination services providers.
With the change in ownership, Doug’s role changed from managing clients to helping lead the company while supporting their sales team and business development efforts. Doug’s partners bring expertise in business management, marketing and industry relations, making them a very well-rounded ownership group. Together they have 100+ years of experience.
Prestige | Global Meeting Source
221 North First Street, Suite 200
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Prepared and written by Mary Jo Wiseman, CMP | Author, “The Meeting Planning Process: A Guide to Planning Successful Meetings.” https://maryjo-wiseman.net