For the short-term, request for proposals (RFPs) do not look dramatically different, if they’re being submitted at all, but there is great optimism that event disruptions and “new normal” considerations will not persist into future-year events.
In the fifth of FICP’s new virtual education series, Financial & Insurance Professionals (FICP) Chats, more than 200 participants explored how to book group business for future meetings, including immediate adjustments for events, and how those were not being written into RFPs for the long-term.
Flexibility and open, honest transparent conversations remain a critical asset for both meetings professionals and suppliers to help ensure the ultimate objectives of relevant content delivery and positive attendee experiences are achieved.
Seeing (In-person) is Believing
While much discussion has occurred in recent months about virtual site inspections, few participants were taking advantage of this option. It was deemed “better than nothing,” but if used, it was suggested that this option should accompany a clause in the contract that allows an in-person site inspection at a future date. Based on the in-person site inspection, that clause should allow meetings professionals the option to cancel the contract without penalty.
Uncertainty Persists in the Short Term
Many meetings professional participants were waiting to submit RFPs until they had more information about standards, protocols and guidelines. They believe current disparities in state and local guidelines, hotel policies, and company policies will make it difficult to evaluate and compare responses. They were optimistic that the Events Industry Council APEX COVID-19 Business Recovery Task Force would help create greater consistency across the industry.
For those sourcing events in the short-term, distancing and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines are being built into the RFP, and it is believed there is more room for negotiation now than in future years. These situations are being handled more on a case-by-case basis.
Hotel cancellation dates were being used as one of the guides for making decisions to cancel Q4 2020 and/or Q1 2021 events. There remained much uncertainty around company travel bans, which made regional and local meetings better options for the short-term as well.
Business as Usual for the Long Term
The situation was much different with participants who were sending out RFPs for future-year events. Those are similar to pre-COVID-19 requests, as it was not expected considerations for social distancing or disease transmission would be needed in future years. Some participants were booking events as far out as 2025. The consensus with participants was that a force majeure clause does need to include language around pandemics, including the current one.
Participants had not experienced COVID-19-related fees being implemented by hotels, even though the hotel partners will be incurring new or increased costs for additional cleaning staff, sanitation stations and similar measures. Those seem to fall into “the costs of doing business.” While hoteliers are being very flexible, they are not likely to add medical staff due to liability issues, which means groups should budget for their own on-site medical support.
With a shift to hybrid meetings, audiovisual costs are expected to increase to allow for live streaming of sessions for virtual attendees or simulcasts for overflow rooms. Transportation costs due to needing more vehicles to transport the same number of attendees were also noted as areas where budgets will increase.
Participants felt that the senior executives at insurance and financial services firms may believe that new or additional concessions will be available in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, participants recognize that it is still very much a sellers’ market for 2021-2023, which means it will be more difficult to offer further concessions. This will require more internal discussion and education about future contracts
For meetings and events in the short-term, participants may need to be flexible about their definition of concessions. Additional pre-function space, new manners of delivering F&B and other impacts due to regulatory requirements and hotel policies may fall into concessions. With regard to luxury and premium hotels and experiences, many concessions such as valet or turn-down services may not be applicable in light of the current circumstances.
Jennifer Squeglia, CMP, is a member of FICP Board of Directors. In the next FICP Chats, our community will focus on self-care tips. Learn more about upcoming FICP Chats, part of FICP Anytime.