By Nicole Marsh, CMP, DMCP
Planners often ask for our expertise in keeping costs down for destination meetings. Here are our top five recommendations.
Consider Flexible Dates – If the client’s dates are flexible, our first action is to look at shoulder or off-season dates in the respective destination. For example, in Colorado, this may be April, May or November, whereas in Orlando off-season would be in the heat of the summer months. There are often great deals to be found at hotels as well as with vendors who are slower during off-peak times.
Utilize Public & Group Transportation – We also are seeing a trend toward utilizing public or group transportation such as the light rail to downtown Denver and group/public shuttles to Colorado Springs or the mountain resorts. Our team still coordinates the transportation for the client—often receiving group discounts—and provides staff to greet guests at the airport and escort them to their transportation, so they feel the level of customer service just as if they had chartered vehicles.
Keep Team-Building or Evening Events on Property – This is another good way to save costs, especially if it is to your benefit when negotiating room rates and food and beverage minimums with the hotels. Inquire about unique or nontraditional spaces to host events.
We also have a series of on-property team-building events ranging from charitable and culinary activities to scavenger hunts and reality challenges.
Consider Ways to Keep Costs Low Off Property – The first option is identifying venues that are within walking distance of the hotel so you don’t incur transportation costs. You also can look at venues in close proximity to the hotel so you can run a shuttle versus having to transfer all guests at once. We also work to identify venues that have their own character or ambiance, where little to no décor is needed to enhance the space. Lately, we’ve had great success in selecting multiuse venues that provide their own entertainment for guests, such as parks and botanical gardens, art and history museums, or even zoos and amusement parks. These venues often have built in décor and entertainment so we can keep costs low or focus extra dollars on unique and memorable dining experiences.
Offer On-Own Experiences – If budgets are forcing you to consider cancelling the off-site event all together, we’ve found good compromises to be tickets to a ballgame, a group dine-around or even an at-leisure evening where attendees are given a flat amount on a Visa gift card, as an example, to spend at their leisure. These options still get them out and about to experience the destination without the larger expense of a planned or elaborate special event.
Although we’ve focused on cutting costs, it is important when working on a limited budget to not go too extreme and deplete the attendees’ overall experience. With a little creativity and a solid partner in the destination, it is still attainable to provide a quality program that leaves a positive reflection on the overall destination meeting experience.
Nicole Marsh, CMP, DMCP is a 20-year industry veteran and partner at Imprint Group, a DMC Network Company, with offices in Colorado and Florida. She is a recipient of the Meetings Industry Council of Colorado’s Industry Leader Award and has been inducted into Colorado Meeting + Events magazine’s Hall of Fame as Best Meeting Professional.