erfpTechnology has undoubtedly facilitated the supplier sourcing process for travel and event planners around the world. Online eRFP platforms are widely accessible and enable planners to send out numerous requests and receive detailed offers in just a click of a button. Some of these platforms, like Azavista, are even offered completely free of charge. For industry professionals, these eRFP tools offer extensive benefits but all users should be aware of the implications associated with them and not to exploit the possibilities they provide. In order for the market to maintain its viability, all key players should be in sync and conduct their business in a collective and thoughtful manner. Azavista has outlined some key eRFP best practices that travel and event planners should keep in mind when sourcing their suppliers.

Use but don’t abuse technology

Modern digitization and the Internet have interconnected the travel industry in a significantly beneficial way. Contacting suppliers, sending multiple eRFPs and finding the best offers have become an accessible luxury for all industry professionals. The ease of use of these systems offer key benefits but travel and event planners should not abuse this functionality.

Due to the increased use of eRFP solutions, hotels easily receive thousands of eRFPs each year with a rather low conversion rate. Hotels on the one hand put in a lot of work in responding to RFPs that will not have a return on investment and planners on the other, have to sift through a mountain of offers that don’t necessarily meet their needs. Consequently, when you are looking for a hotel, make sure you have done your homework and predefined all your needs in order to send targeted RFPs without spamming hotels that do not fit your initial requirements.
So both parties can work in a sustainable manner, we strongly advise the use of research and analytics solutions which can narrow down the hotels or venues you would like approach. Tools like, Azavista Analytics, allow you to conduct evidence-based research around supplier pricing, availability and dates, in order to make a careful and targeted selection of suppliers.

Be detailed, specific and concise 

With the RFP explosion, hoteliers have been forced to be selective in their responses. Planners must include a complete but brief overview of the basic requirements, as well as the program’s top priorities in the RFP. In other words be sure to include requirements regarding dates, space,  and rates, as well as other more event specific information like a meeting room with daylight illumination  or a column free ballroom. Also do not forget to state your flexibility on the above requirements. By providing all this information a hotel can clearly judge if they can meet the planner’s needs and back and forth clarifications are not needed, saving time for both parties involved.

Use past references

Efficient planners keep a record of received offers. Some technology platforms, like Azavista, also offer archiving options, so past offers are easily retrievable. Before sending out new proposals, it is always prudent to run through the files and see which suppliers have given good offers in the past. Limiting the number of recipients, and again, targeting your requests, can save time and facilitate the whole RFP process. This gives planners evidence-based information in the initial staging of the supplier sourcing process.

Remember to release unwanted options

When receiving an abundance of offers through an eRFP platform, planners often forget to release the options they are not interested in. Hotels list these requests as possible leads and have put in work in order to give an offer to the end planner. The simple business courtesy of releasing your options and where possible justifying your decision, is something that hotels highly appreciate, as they know not to spend unnecessary time in following up with the planner and they receive constructive feedback that can help them in improving future proposals.

Build relationships

Planners are humans as are hoteliers and their sales people. Technology boosts efficiency but human interaction still brings the final stroke. The avalanche of eRFPs has led to the neglect of the human factor, but planners must find the time to talk with the people behind the screens and develop relationships to sustain the continuity of business. Even if you manage most of the sourcing process with an online platform, don’t forget to give the hotel a call, just to give that personal touch and go through the final details.

The hotel eRFP barrage calls for new rules of engagement that will mean faster processing, better deals for planners and improved conversion rates for hotels. Utilize the vast capabilities these modern platforms offer, but always keep in mind these best practices in order to get the most out of your supplier sourcing process.