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Navigating hotel RFPs: How to win more group business

Lana Cook

By Lana Cook

Groups are one of the most lucrative segments for hoteliers. From conferences to weddings and production crews, securing group business is a surefire way for hotels to fill occupancy months in advance. 

But how can you win more group business

Mastering the RFP (request for proposal) process is the key to unlocking this segment. Hoteliers must find ways to manage and respond to RFPs in a way that makes them stand out from competing lodging businesses. In this article, we explore strategies for how hotels can win more RFPs in 2024.


What is an RFP?

A request for proposal is a business document that announces and provides details about a project while asking for bids from contractors to help complete it. In the hospitality industry, RFPs are usually sent to hotels by event planners, corporate travel managers, tournament organizers, travel management companies, or production companies.

These professionals seek hotel accommodations and facilities for various circumstances, such as weddings, tournaments, hosting crews, business travel, or conferences. An RFP typically outlines the services required, the type and duration of the hotel accommodation needed, and other relevant details, giving the hotel an opportunity to pitch for the project.


Why is having an RFP process important?

Skift found that in September 2023, RFPs for events more than 12 months away were at 98% of 2019 levels, indicating the recovery of global business events. In the Middle East, RFP activity was at 128%, closely followed by North America at 116%.

A well-defined RFP process allows hotels to effectively manage and respond to multiple bids, increasing the probability of securing business. Even if a bid isn’t won, it provides a great opportunity for hotels to showcase their facilities and services to industry professionals and implement marketing campaigns for future bids.

Proactively engaging in the RFP process allows hotels to foster strong relationships with event planners and travel managers, enhancing their reputation in the market and creating further business opportunities. It essentially serves as a marketing tool to showcase a hotel’s capabilities and service level, ensuring they stand out from the competition and win more often.


A typical hotel RFP process 

Let’s walk through a typical RFP process within the hotel industry.

1. Preparing & submitting the RFP 

The first step generally involves the customer—an event planner or a corporate travel manager, for instance—preparing and sending out the RFPs to various hotels. Professionals find suitable hotels via RFP and event tools or manually through hotel websites, search engines, and online directories. 

These RFPs contain detailed specifications of what the customer seeks in terms of hotel services and accommodations.

Commonly included in the proposal are:

  • Company name and information
  • Purpose for the RFP 
  • Dates 
  • Attendees 
  • Guest room types
  • Number of rooms needed 
  • Amenities 
  • Concessions
  • Transportation 
  • Conference rooms and meeting spaces
  • Event venues
  • Budget
  • Deadline for response


2. Crafting & submitting the proposal 

The hotel’s sales team conducts an internal review of each RFP to understand the specific requirements and gauge whether they can satisfactorily meet them. Before receiving RFPs, sales teams must define what a good lead looks like—it doesn’t make sense to invest time responding to every RFP. You should prioritize leads where your hotel has a high likelihood of winning the proposal. 

Once you’ve determined that the lead is a good fit, you must consolidate input from various departments such as food and beverage, events, reservations, and more.

With all the necessary details, the hotel constructs a compelling proposal tailored to the needs outlined in the RFP. This proposal serves as the hotel’s pitch, explaining its ability to meet the customer’s requirements and highlighting its unique selling points to enhance the guest experience.


3. Following up 

Once your detailed and targeted RFP proposal is out of your hands and into those of the decision-makers, it can be easy to slip into a holding pattern of waiting and hoping for the best. However, one crucial aspect of the RFP strategy that is often overlooked is the importance of follow-up after the RFP submission.

Post-submission follow-up serves multiple purposes. It demonstrates to the client your continued interest in and commitment to their project. A follow-up also keeps your hotel top of mind, particularly in cases where the decision process is lengthy and RFP responses are numerous. Additionally, it presents an opportunity to clarify and confirm proposal details and answer any arising questions the client might have.


4. The decision-making process 

The customer reviews all received proposals and makes a decision, often based on factors like price, service quality, and hotel reputation. The negotiation process will occur between the client and the hotel concerning room rates, upgrades, ancillary services, and more. 

Following their selection of your hotel as the winner, you will have further discussions to finalize the agreement.

By understanding this process, hotels can better strategize and position themselves to win the bids. As hotels become more familiar with the RFP process and the needs of event planners, they can start tailoring their offerings to increase the likelihood of success.


6 strategies to win more RFPs

Besides taking the time to read through and understand the client’s requirements and respond to RFPs in a timely manner, here are a few tips to win more RFPs this year. 

  1. Personalize your proposals. While you should have processes and templates in place to streamline RFP responses as much as possible, ensure that you add a level of personalization to each response. Incorporate elements from the request and how your property can uniquely deliver.
  2. Paint a picture. Be detailed and help the vendor visualize how you can deliver the results they’re looking for. From your hotel rooms to event spaces and meeting rooms, showcase how your property fits their needs.
  3. Include relevant case studies. Have you hosted similar events or groups? Keep a repository of case studies and references that you can include within your proposal. Having these on hand to easily add in can make a huge difference in winning bids.
  4. Educate your sales teams. Make RFPs a part of sales onboarding and hold regular training sessions with hotel management to answer questions and communicate any changes to the process. Clearly define what a good lead looks like and the process for responding to proposals.
  5. Have a groups & events page on your website. Make it clear on your website that your property hosts groups and events so planners consider you for the RFP (and exclude you immediately if you don’t have the proper requirements). Include booking information, room capacities, food and beverage options, images, FAQs, and contact information.
  6. Invest in RFP software. RFP tools help vendors find hotels and facilitate real-time interactions, increasing the likelihood of winning deals. Management tools also streamline the time-consuming RFP process, making it easier to templatize and respond to RFPs fast. 


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Implementing these strategies does not guarantee you’ll win every RFP, but it can significantly improve your chances of securing hotel groups. An RFP is not just a business proposal; it’s also a chance to showcase your hotel’s capabilities, build relationships, and distinguish your property from the competition.


Hotel RFP software 

Many hotels are incorporating RFP software into their operations to streamline the RFP management process and increase win rates. Here, we explore what RFP software is, how it works, and its value when integrated with other hotel software.

What is RFP software?

RFP software is a tool that aids in creating, tracking, and managing RFPs. It simplifies the process of responding to RFPs by automating many administrative tasks and centralizing information, which facilitates easier access and review. The software can also provide analytics and reports to help identify trends, evaluate performance, and enhance strategies.

Lodging businesses should consider the following functionality when looking into RFP software:

  • Prioritization of incoming RFPS to ensure the highest quality leads are being responded to first and by the proper sales representatives
  • The ability to personalize RFPs based on each proposal 
  • Bid analysis tools
  • Real-time tracking and management of RFPs so that staff can easily collaborate across teams, ensuring timely responses 
  • Automation to help manage follow-ups, reminders, and deadlines 
  • Lead tracking and engagement monitoring to inform future prospecting strategies 
  • Integration capabilities with the property management system (PMS), CRM, accounting software, and more to ensure data consistency and improved operational efficiency


RFP software integration capabilities 

RFP software becomes even more powerful when integrated with other hotel systems, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software and property management systems (PMS). It’s essential to look for a provider with integrations into other tools to ensure a seamless data flow between systems. 


PMS integration.

An integration between RFP software and property management software ensures availability and rates are always up-to-date. This eliminates the risk of overbooking and allows for the creation of group rates, room blocks, and add-ons. Moreover, it ensures centralization of reservation data, providing a single source of truth and reducing potential errors that could occur from manual data input or synchronization across different systems.


CRM integration.

This integration helps sales and marketing teams reach groups for future engagements. Since CRM systems house a wealth of customer data, integrating them with RFP software allows for a more personalized and targeted approach in responding to RFPs. The software uses information about past interactions, preferences, and patterns to tailor responses that meet the specific needs and expectations of the client, thereby improving the likelihood of winning bids.

You can also leverage past RFP submissions to proactively reach out to groups for future dates. Often, groups host annual events, such as conferences or business retreats, providing a fantastic opportunity for your sales team to engage ahead of time. 

Integrating RFP software with your hotel tech stack streamlines the process and provides valuable insights that you can use to refine your strategy and foster stronger relationships with event planners, corporate travel managers, and other professionals likely to send RFPs. 


The value of an RFP strategy

By understanding the mechanics of the RFP process, optimizing your response strategy, and making full use of RFP software, you can dramatically enhance your ability to win more group business this year.

In the long run, a strong RFP strategy is a part of building and maintaining important relationships with event planners, corporate travel managers, and other professionals who regularly send RFPs to hotels. When you prove your ability to meet and even exceed their expectations, you pave the way for repeat business and referrals, which can significantly boost your revenues.

By strategically navigating the RFP landscape, your hotel can secure more group business, elevate its reputation in the market, and drive the kind of growth that ensures a prosperous future.


See how Cloudbeds can help you win more group business.

Published on 23 April, 2024 |
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About Lana Cook

Lana Cook

Lana Cook is a Content Writer at Cloudbeds where she is able to combine her love of writing and passion for travel. She has spent the last few years writing about all things technology and the ways in which it can be used to help businesses thrive. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her checking out the latest movie or searching for a new TV show to binge.

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