Numerous times, we have taken on hotels for the benefit of our clients when, for one reason or another, client expectations for a meeting didn’t pan out. Even when the contact clearly states our clients have liability, we go back to the hotel and work out a settlement that’s in the client’s favor – and even when there is no legal basis for doing so. Our relationships with hotel chains and specifically with conference management staff mean that even when they don’t have to, hotels make adjustments in our clients’ favor.
After 30 years in the industry, we have extensive knowledge of which hotels are suitable for our client meetings. The lack of uniform guidelines for hotel ratings in various countries creates a great deal of uncertainty, however, with respect to "Star" ratings, and we try to work with our clients to be sure their expectations are reasonable. In many parts of the world, there is no such thing as a "safe, four star hotel" - especially in Latin America and in some parts of Asia, where we try to insist that basic safety requires selection of a five star hotel.
Summit's booking team follows the concept of Lowest Logical Airfare, unless the client policy specifically directs us to do otherwise. Within the US, virtually all air travel is booked at the lowest available coach fare at the time of booking. Invited guests, however, are usually invited to state their preference for airline, and, all things equal, are usually allowed to travel nonstop wherever a cheaper connecting flight would take 2 or more hours longer to complete a trip.
PhRMA guidelines are regularly reviewed by our senior management team, and we host semi-annual discussions about the latest guidelines with all members of our staff. Our clients have different interpretations about the guidelines, including what level of hotel property is suitable for their meetings. In Asia, Africa and parts of Europe, we encourage our clients to be more flexible as to whether higher-tier hotels are appropriate, simply because many properties are incapable of providing proper security or support for meetings.
Since our clients generally do not allow us to contact meeting attendees directly, the best metric is feedback from our customer stakeholders. Our standard process is to engage in a project review with key stakeholders after each meeting. We understand (as do many of our clients) that while a flawless meeting is a goal, there are many variables beyond the control of the most aggressive plan.
After 35 years in the travel management business, it has been our experience that few managers make effective use out of the reams of paper wasted on travel management reports. The fact is, most “savings” reports are virtually worthless unless the person reviewing the report (and more importantly corporate supervisors) are fully cognizant of what is being measured, and what it’s being measured against!