November 2015

Cool Online Resources You Don't Know About

by Neil Cramer

Way back in the pre-internet Stone Age, every neighborhood had a “Mom and Pop” Travel Agency where you had to go to get information (remember brochures?) about a destination or hotel (or anything). There were giant Hotel & Travel indexes filled with ads and listings for every hotel in the world, plus continually updated OAG books with airline schedules. The walls were covered with posters from Cruise Lines.

As you waited for the agent to confirm whatever it is you needed to do, you sat there as they stared into an airline reservation system computer (requiring special training), typed a lot of unintelligible code, muttered under their breath, and then called an airline and waited on hold (forever) to confirm your reservation while telling you about some “fam trip” cruise they had just been on and how much they ate and drank. Meanwhile, you flipped through brochures.

The internet comes along… an airline ticket and a hotel room becomes a commodity… and boom... the mom-and-pops disappear. Left standing were the huge corporate agencies and the very high-end “carriage-trade” agencies, but for the rest of us, buying a ticket, booking a hotel room or a cruise, or renting a car, became, like gas stations, self-serve. And yes, I miss the days when some guy would fill my tank, check my oil and wash my windows. But I don’t really miss sitting in a travel agency… but I digress…

Booking groups was always a little different since there are so many details to consider, points-of-sale, meeting specs, and all the blah-blah that goes into meeting planning. Expertise and relationships with suppliers was still required.

It’s taken a while for the technology to catch up, but now, at least for the basic stuff, you can do most things yourself, on-line, and the answer to just about every question in the universe is .0002 seconds away. (Note – the big, complicated stuff still requires someone knowing what they are doing).

On the other hand, there is now so much information out there, it is almost impossible to tell who is good and who is not. Travel Advisor and Yelp may be good for individual experiences, but a) groups are different and b) I don’t know anyone who actually writes those reviews anyway. Why should I trust the crowd if I don’t even like the crowd?

That’s kind of what I do for group stuff… vet the suppliers and vendors and then recommend them to meeting planners who don’t have the time to wade through it all. It’s the relationship thing (if you’re into that). But I digress…

Here are some “Cool On-Line Resources” that are no secret unless you did not know about them already. Check them out (since they are cool).

First up… PeerSpace.com

Think of it as “AirBnB” for private event spaces but with lots of added value stuff thrown in. It’s a simple concept (now that someone thought of it). Want to have a private event in a cool venue in San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York City?

Go to their web site and create a free account (and you can browse through their entire inventory of cool places, or use one of their many filters… and once you find something you can connect directly with the venue OR… you can chat with one of the PeerSpace people and they’ll help you find what you need. And they are nice too.

Next up… LuxuryVIPSuites.com

You’re a meeting and event planner. The boss says… “I want to entertain our 25 best customers at the next big game. Want one of those VIP suites. Set that up.” And you say OK… and then stare at your computer screen trying to figure out what to do next.

The answer? Go to LuxuryVIPSuites.com (makes sense). They just happen to be the main supplier of luxury suites at all sporting events and concerts in North America. And they are also really nice (at least to me, so far).

Have to find a private room in a restaurant? If it’s San Francisco… SFPDV.com

I get asked all the time… hey, can you recommend a restaurant in San Francisco with a private room that can seat x number of people on such and such a date?

San Francisco Private Dining Venues is free search engine and RFP platform for event planners to locate the best possible venue for their private dining needs. Venues range from fun and casual to fine dining with lots of choices in between. You can submit an RFP on the web site and choose which restaurants should receive it. It’s actually pretty cool. Click here.

Have to do the same thing but in NYC? privatediningconcierge.com…You can then search by neighborhood, cuisine, size, and features.  To make the process more efficient (I like efficient because I am lazy, I mean… busy), users can send one Request for Proposal to multiple private dining managers at the same time. Restaurants respond directly to the request via email.

How about this resource… Want to find some special group offer… a hotel that may have just had a major cancellation or has a hole to fill? I wish I could tell you there was just one site (attention entrepreneurs!), but for now you have to go chain by chain. Here are some links to get you started…

Preferred Hotelshttp://phgmeetings.com/hot-dates/

Marriott Hotels: http://www.marriott.com/meetings/group-hotel-discounts.mi

Hyatt Hotels: http://www.hyatt.com/hyatt/meetings/extra-value-dates/index.jsp

Four Seasons Hotels: http://www.fourseasons.com/meetings_and_events/great_group_values/

Accor Hotels: http://meetings.accorhotels.com/gb/discovering-accor-hotel/promotions.shtml

Kimpton Hotels: https://www.kimptonhotels.com/special-offers

Destination Hotels: https://www.destinationhotels.com/offers/meetings

Vail Resorts: http://www.vailresortshospitality.com/meetings-events/group-promotion.aspx

AMResorts: http://www.amresorts.com/meetings/offers/

I could go on and on…or you could visit allthingsmeetings.com and check out our blogs and Libraries, we’ll keep adding as we go so that we, too remain a very “cool on-line resource” for All Things Meetings. Bookmark these resources for when you are next called upon to Plan Something. Or subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll keep you updated. And I am not anonymous. You can actually talk to me (neil@allthingsmeetings.com). But check these out for now…