Are meeting planners incentivized by points?

Here’s a situation for you to think over. I came across an offer by a major hotel chain aimed at meeting planners and companies looking for a meeting location. The promotion offered triple the quantity of loyalty reward points if you booked your meeting at one of its hotels during a two-month period at the end of the year.

It’s simple: give perks to secure more meetings business. On the surface, this seems like a crafty way to create an edge in the RFP marketplace without spending any real money to do so.

The points cost little, but they’re worth little as well. In fact, I beg the question: Does anybody care about points when it comes to meetings? What are they really good for?

To fully answer this question, you have to first look at who benefits from receiving such points. In the case of meeting planners, their contracts very often stipulate that they cannot accept these types of points or that they have to give them back to the client. If this isn’t expressly stated — for instance, when a meeting planner is independent — then there might be some impetus to use such reward points. But, it’s often the case that meeting planners won’t want to stay at the same hotel as their clients.

Second, points are individualized, which means they cannot be distributed to a general company account but must be attached to a person. This treads on some very unethical fibers, especially when the company is publicly traded and an employee cannot legally accept gifts with a value of over $25. So, if not the meeting planner and not the employee, then who is being incentivized by these points?

For example, when helping plan the P&G alumni meeting when they came to my hometown of Toronto, we received just over 100,000 loyalty points for booking with a certain major downtown hotel. Not only did the points only garner an iota of our interest when planning the site, but no one could ethically accept them after the fact. We ended up have a raffle for the planning committee, and the points became one of the prizes. Moreover, the winner of the points later told me that such a hefty accumulation only netted him a free weekend’s stay. So, not only were these loyalty points a trivial bonus, but they weren’t even anywhere close to a top consideration when booking. Why is that?

By and large, the most important aspect of deciding where to host a massive symposium is availability. Does the site meet our needs when it comes to ballrooms, guestrooms, breakout rooms, catering and other miscellaneous features? Being able to bring hundreds of people together from all over the world into one building is no small task. It requires expert precision and a variety of room types. Then, and only then, does a meeting planner consider other aspects such as hotel brand, cost structure, proximity to city attractions and, on the bottom rung of the totem pole, points.

So, I wonder who is swayed one way or the other by an offer of triple points. To me, it seems like an empty offer and a waste of marketing resources. Instead, to grow your meetings business, you should start at the top of the totem pole and focus on delivering the best possible site a city can offer.