When you need to find a hotel for 50 people, it’s nice to have some help.
Taking your church group on the road can be a lot of fun, but the behind-the-scenes work of arranging accommodations in the places you plan to visit can be daunting. It’s difficult to use a travel website to book a large block of rooms, and contacting individual hotels one at a time to ask about rates and availability can be ineffective and time consuming. That’s why savvy travel planners turn to local experts for assistance.
In destinations around the country, convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) are staffed with locals whose job it is to help you plan the best trip possible. They can assist in a wide range of ways, from itinerary planning and restaurant recommendations to guide services and welcome gifts. But among the most helpful things that CVBs can do is help you select the best hotels for your group and negotiate with the management to secure the best rates and amenities possible.
Here are 10 steps for taking advantage of this helpful, free service.
1) Start planning early.
Some elements of a trip plan can be put off until close to departure date, but hotel booking is not one of them. Quite simply, if you don’t have hotel rooms, you don’t have a trip. So as soon as you have selected a destination, you should immediately reach out to the local CVB to start the hotel shopping. It’s never too early; you can begin even a year or more in advance. With all the considerations that are to follow, giving yourself and your CVB partners plenty of lead time will make the process easier for everyone.
2) Get advice on your timing.
The price and availability of hotel rooms rise and fall based on a host of factors, but among the most important are local destination occupancy patterns. Rooms will be scarcer and prices higher during peak season and busy travel days. If your group has some flexibility, ask your CVB contact to suggest the best time for your trip. Visiting during a shoulder season or staying on off-peak nights of the week can help you save significant money, and the local tourism staff know exactly when those ideal times will be.
3) Get input on locations.
If you’re traveling to a small destination with little traffic and only a few accommodation options, the location of your hotel may not matter much. But in bigger cities with far-flung attractions and diverse neighborhoods, it’s helpful to have a hotel where you can come and go conveniently. As you work with the CVB to set up activities, ask them to suggest neighborhoods and locations for hotels that will fit well with the rest of your itinerary.
4) Pin down your trip details.
After you have local input on your timing and locations, you’ll need to start deciding some specifics about your trip in order to book the hotel. This includes committing to specific dates or a range of dates for your overnight stays and formulating a good estimate of the number of rooms you’ll need. This is the information CVB reps need to start facilitating hotel bookings.
5) Start the bid process.
This is where the details of hotel bookings begin to diverge from one destination to the next. In some smaller cities, CVB reps might recommend one or two hotels based on your specific information and put you in contact with the sales departments at those properties to finalize bookings. Larger CVBs often have a more formal bidding process in which they submit your booking details to a wide range of hotels in the city and collect price quotes from various properties for your review. If that’s the case, the next several tips will help you get bids that fit your situation best.