Elite Meetings Brings Hotels, Planners Together

Elite Meetings CEO Kelly Foy

“Let’s put the buyer and seller together and get out of the way and let them do what they do best,” says Elite Meetings International CEO Kelly Foy, describing not only the Elite Meetings Alliance at Terranea, but also the entire approach to his company.

Foy, who spent almost 10 years at Resorts & Great Hotels Magazine, started Elite Meetings with a website and the first two Alliance meetings in 2006.

Elitemeetings.com features a search engine of the best luxury properties for meeting planners. Planners can search for sites by geographic location, property size (rooms or meeting space) and other amenities and then electronically submit RFPs.

Elite certified properties are first nominated and must meet certain criteria and are then approved by the board (of 18 mostly planners and a few hotel executives). There are 1,281 certified properties listed on the site, broken into the high-end luxury Platinum category and the upper-upscale/luxury Gold category.

Planners also can use a Trip Advisor-like rating system to grade Elite properties and add content so other planners can see pertinent feedback from their peers. “We built the website for meeting planners, not hotels,” says Foy, adding that hotels can and have been removed if reviews are consistently poor. Hotels do not, and cannot, pay any fees to be included on the site and any transactions booked through the site are commission free.

“They’re not paying for status, which makes this pure,” Foy explains. “If a planner types in Santa Barbara (CA, where Elite is headquartered ) and the Four Seasons doesn’t show up because they didn’t pay us, then what? This has to be a trusted guide and resource for planners.”

Elite properties can pay for a marketing program that includes special perks on the website, space in the magazine that publishes twice a year and the opportunity to attend the Alliances. The meeting at Terranea was the ninth Alliance and there are two to three a year in different regions of the country. The events are completely free, besides airfare, to qualified planners, and hotels that are part of the marketing program can pay $5,000 to attend, which covers all costs minus air. If hotels opt not to pay for the marketing—and approximately 75 percent don’t—they’re still included on the site and gain business opportunities through the network of planners using the site.

Elite Meetings also has expanded into the technology arena with an electronic appointment-scheduler caller FaceTime and expanded its RFP system into a product now available to all hotels and chains.

Foy compares his new SpeedRFP to PayPal, the Internet banking tool that’s made online shopping so easy.

An estimated 80 percent of RFPs are still submitted the old-fashioned and time-consuming way, via emails,, faxes and calls, says Foy. Using SpeedRFP, planners can sign in from anywhere and submit RFPs and access all their old RFPs. They never have to re-key basic information. The tool is free for planners and hotels can use a free Community version to embed the APEX-compliant form on their sites. A Pro version is available for a monthly fee with added features, including a tie-in to Newmarket’s lead management system, MeetingBroker, so RFPs will come right into the hotel’s system. An Enterprise option is available for chains.

“The RFP process has always been a mess,” says Andy Anderson, whose Destination Hotels and Resorts is the first portfolio using SpeedRFP. “Our ecommerce provider built a tool like this and it was pretty sexy, but an RFP tool is only effective if you have planners coming into it. What I see this doing is creating a large collection of (planners) that will need the tool. And if they need the tool, they’ll find me.”

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