Executive Group Travel Blog

Is it too early for 2018 planning?

[fa icon="clock-o"] Oct 12, 2016 10:57:00 AM [fa icon="user"] Marci McCormack [fa icon="folder-open'] Incentive Travel

Market Demand:

Given the current demand in the incentive market it is never too early to get started on your 2018 incentive trip or sales kickoff event.  The next 3 months is your ideal time to get that contract negotiated.  Busy hotels such as The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fairmont Bermuda, and Ritz Aruba are already booked out into 2019 for busy dates.  Many repeat conferences and company events book out 3 years ahead to secure ideal dates and meeting space, especially in the finance and insurance world. 

We recommend focusing on your RFP process 18 months before your next incentive trip or sales kickoff event.  The larger your room block and meeting space needs, the longer time you need to give yourself to secure space.  This is especially true if your dates are not flexible.  For needs over 200 rooms we recommend almost 2 years ahead of time if you are looking during a busy time in that destination.  If you wait until 14 months before you are going to run into an influx of other meeting planners/internal event teams submitting RFP's which forces quick decision turnarounds (1st versus 2nd option holds), drives up prices, and makes negotiations tougher. 


Long Lead Times:

Here are a few examples of busy times in specific locations that a large group (200+ room block) would want to book 2 years ahead of time:

January in Scottsdale & Orlando

February, March & April in the Caribbean (Aruba & Grand Caymans especially)


One thing you might be surprised to find is that the further you go out for dates the less competitive pricing can be.  The reason behind this is that for 2017 trips the hotels are now trying to fill gaps in their room blocks.  If your dates are very flexible (weekends, etc) then you could find some good last minute pricing to fill gaps.  Especially in places such as Las Vegas, Jamaica and Cancun.  The prime locations are harder to secure last minute due to their FIT business bookings.


Morale of the Story:

If your dates are not flexible or only have two/three options then we highly recommend booking 18+ months ahead of time.  Especially if your room block is over 120 + rooms.  You might pay a small premium in terms of room pricing but you will be able to negotiate a long list of concessions to get that deal done. 

If dates and location are flexible then don't be afraid to wait until 6-9 months before and see if you can find a "last" minute deal to fill a room block gap for the hotel.  Brands such as Four Seasons will even send over quarterly deals for their Gap pricing options.