Whereas a few years ago, an event organizer could have expected to secure their venue of choice on their dates of choice with little trouble, we haven’t quite bounced back to those days in 2023.
Instead, organizers are having to get smarter about the way they approach event bookings, especially for desirable hotel venues. So, what does that look like, and how should you be approaching finding the right hotel for your events in 2023?
The bad news and good news
In 2021 and 2022, as limited face-to-face events started to return, hotels had all the power. They could afford to be choosy and only work with their preferred vendors or organizers for events. This was particularly prevalent in big, primary tier cities, such as New York, Orlando, or Washington DC – demand for great venues massively outstripped supply, leaving lots of event organizers struggling to find the right hotel to accommodate their plans.
However, the good news is that it’s a different story in 2023. Event organizers have many more options today than in the last couple of years, so if you’re flexible, it’s likely you’ll secure a great hotel in one of your top-choice cities. It just means being open-minded and being strategic about your event planning.
Be open-minded about your cities
Many corporate event planners, including AMI, encourage our clients to be open-minded when it comes to choosing a city for their events. Generally, around 50% of the time there will be availability in your top-choice city, and the other 50% there will be availability in second and third-choice cities.
Clients have also increased the likelihood of securing a venue of their choice by looking outside primary-tier cities and instead opting for secondary-tier cities. For instance, if you would usually target Miami as your host city, considering Fort Lauderdale can significantly improve your options – not just in terms of availability and dates, but also price.
Secondary-tier cities are still vibrant, very well connected, and great for events, but with the advantage of less demand, they have more availability and lower rates, helping you get more bang for your buck.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate
Now that hotels no longer hold all the power when it comes to organizing events, the buyer has more negotiating power. It’s no longer the case that organizers have to take it or leave it – we now have the option to ask more directly for what we want. Maybe that’s upgrading your hospitality package, securing favorable room rates, or getting the exact conference rooms you want – there’s no harm in asking!
If you want to be strategic about it, think long-term. Many hotels will be happy to sign multi-year contracts so you can guarantee the same dates across multiple years, either at the same hotel or within the same group. For instance, you can ensure that your event takes place over the same dates at a variety of Hilton or Marriott hotels, giving both you and the hotel group certainty while increasing your negotiating power.
The more notice, the better
We recommend aiming for at least six months’ lead time when booking hotels for your events to secure the best venues and dates. Still, if you don’t have the luxury of time on your side, there’s no need to worry, but you may need help.
There are experts in sourcing hotels for events just 60-90 days out, so if you’re still looking for that perfect venue, contact an authority on corporate events, such as American Meetings.
What about international events?
It’s a similar story for international events. Corporate event planners are finding that many conferences and meetings are moving outside big cities. As an example, some medical conferences have been held in the small Swiss city of Lugano instead of Zurich or Geneva, and in the UK, many organizers are looking outside London to smaller, character-filled cities such as Brighton or Bristol.
A top tip for booking hotels for international events is to consider the currency exchange rate. For instance, the Nordic countries are notoriously expensive no matter where you’re based, but opting for a country using Euros such as Germany or France can help you stretch your budget further. And, of course, don’t forget to check out those secondary-tier cities!