Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Travel Tax Alert!

The National Business Travel Association Foundation recently released its latest report on the best and worst cities for travel taxes—a subject that can inspire wrath in a great many travelers (and planners). Sticking it to travelers for projects that may or may not have anything to do with travelers is a popular way to raise revenue, especially for cities like Chicago, New York, Boston, Seattle and Minneapolis, which have the highest total travel tax rate in the U.S. If you want to avoid meeting in a city that imposes the highest taxes specifically on travel services, be aware that Portland, OR, Boston, Minneapolis, Indianapolis and New York will make you pay through the nose.

On the other hand, if you’re watching your budget you may want to consider holding your event in a city with lowest overall taxes: Fort Lauderdale, Fort Meyers, Portland OR, Detroit or (surprise!) Honolulu. Cities with the lowest taxes on travel-related services are all located in sunny California: Orange County, San Jose, Burbank, San Diego and Ontario. Hmmmm, makes you wonder if those cities will see a little more meeting action when the word gets out.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tasting Tidbits

Attended the local NACE (National Association of Catering Executives) meeting last night to connect with friends and learn more about tasting events. The meet-up was at the Embassy Suites Minneapolis Airport, and the room was packed—hot topic, it appears. Here are a few take-aways that event planners may find helpful.

Will I need to pay for the tasting? Every venue and caterer has a different policy. Most of the speakers (and the people I talked to) allow a certain number of people (two to four) pro bono, and charge for any extras. But there are exceptions to every rule, especially for events that are being managed by large committees.

Do I need to book my event space before my client gets a tasting?
Generally, you book the space, and then get the tasting. Again, there are exceptions. If you’re bringing in a big chunk of business, the caterer may be willing to give you a tasting to help win the deal. But don’t expect this—it’s usually not done. To minimize the risk in case you r client isn’t happy with the tasting, request a second tasting and let the chef (or salesperson) know exactly what your client expects. They want happy customers, so they’ll listen.

What can I expect at the tasting?
A sampling of two-to-three items in each food category, served in a variety of styles. Some caterers arrange to have the tasting in the same space where the event will happen, and will dress out the tablescape just as it will be at the event.

Bon app├ętit!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Brighter Days Ahead?

After the trials and tribulations of the past few years, it’s nice to finally hear some encouraging news. The meetings industry appears to be on an upswing—a minor one, to be sure, but the momentum seems to building a bit.

A new survey commissioned by the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), the PCMA Education Foundation and American Express queried 505 meeting planners throughout the U.S. about their intentions regarding off-site meetings for 2010 and 2011. Respondents indicated that they booked an increase of 15 percent more meetings in 2010 compared to 2009, and expect an increase of 24 percent more bookings for 2011 as compared to 2009.

Attendance forecasts are equally encouraging, with a net increase of 23 percent in 2010 and 38 percent increase compared to 2009.

Some more positive news: In 2009, 54 percent of the respondents postponed, canceled or re-booked meetings at a cost of $81,000 per planner. This year, only six percent plan to take these actions and expect to pay only $7,600 in cancellation fees in 2010 and $3,500 for meetings booked in 2011.

Venue selection is also affected by the economy over the next few years, with resorts and cruise ships on the decline (still those perception issues!) while hotels are forecast to begin recovery with an increase in bookings of 25 percent. Upscale and luxury properties are still being avoided.

So it seems that we should keep our seat belts fastened—the road is still going to be bumpy. But we may have seen the worst.