Meeting in the New Era: Booking Prior to a Site Visit

February 8, 2021
Meeting in the New Era: Booking Prior to a Site Visit

How do you guarantee a new experience for your next meeting? Book at a hotel that is not even open yet.

That’s what Sandra Geiger, a global account executive with ConferenceDirect, opted for when planning an Alabama association’s annual membership meeting.

The June 2021 event will be held at Hotel Effie in Destin, Florida. The boutique property opened its doors the first week of February.

From all accounts, the hotel appears to be the latest gem along the Emerald Coast. Geiger is certainly counting on it—as she signed the contract without setting foot on the property.

“We have never booked a meeting with a hotel that wasn’t built, so this is a first for us,” she said.

Hotel Effie staff looking to have groups on the books before opening day worked diligently to provide as much information as possible.

Promotional pieces, including virtual tour video and schematics with seating charts went a long way toward convincing the association. A “pick your perk” incentive to book proved effective, too.

Despite signing on, Geiger noted, “We have been nervous from the beginning.”

Fortunately, a hard-hat tour in November went extremely well. The meeting space was fully carpeted and many guest rooms already had furniture, making it easier to picture the group using the property for its annual gathering. Now, “We are super excited for June,” Geiger proclaimed.

Utilizing a new hotel was not part of the original plan. But when contract negotiations with another property went awry, Hotel Effie took advantage.

The association was familiar with Destin already, and eager to return. It used Grand Sandestin previously for an event, and attendees have enjoyed exploring Baytowne Wharf for its restaurants and its activities.

Interestingly, though, the unknown factor of Hotel Effie proved equally alluring.

“It being a brand-new hotel makes it unique,” Geiger said.

Another major bonus: the association will be the only group in-house on those dates.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that there is a rooftop pool and Emerald Coast is known for its beautiful beaches.

The decision-making underscores that the more some things change (virtual site visits, Zoom calls, etc.), the more they stay the same. When groups begin meeting en masse again, they will be expecting different experiences from year’s past and the full attention of hotel staff.

“The idea of being in a brand-new hotel and being the only group in-house really made it an easy decision,” said Geiger.

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