Compliance Challenges Pharma Planners’ Hotel Picks

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A five-star rating is a red flag for compliance, while airport hotels are acceptable.

Compliance guidelines around hotel/venue sourcing test pharma planners’ patience.

Compliance has challenged planners of pharmaceutical meetings like never before. They’re expected to create sophisticated programs while adhering to rigid PhRMA guidelines, to carefully monitor spend and at the same time cater to a demanding audience of healthcare professionals (HCPs).

Healthcare reform has affected every aspect of meetings, especially venue selection. It’s important that hotels where pharma meetings are being held understand the difference between regulated meetings, where the attendees are HCPs (such as advisory boards or clinical trial meetings) and non-regulated meetings (such as training or incentive programs), says Betsy Bondurant, CMM, CTE, HMCC, president of Bondurant Consulting. “Be explicit about what types of properties you can and cannot use if it is a regulated meeting. Share that the final selection has to be approved by the internal compliance department, so simply taking the name ‘resort’ off of the contract is not a viable solution.”

Other red flags for compliance departments include five-star ratings, resort or gaming destinations, such as Phoenix or Las Vegas; and on-site facilities, such as golf, a nightclub or a spa.

Airport properties are safe, says Bondurant, because of their easy access and lthe fact that they require little to no transfer time (thus less time out of office for the attendee), and downtown properties are more acceptable than suburban ones.

Some companies create mandates on hotel stays, which was what Cecile Mutch, GLP, GTP, senior director, corporate services, faced a year ago at Kellogg Company. The new policy required that all hotel bookings (both business travel and meetings) include breakfast and Wi-Fi in the nightly rate. The company also established a hotel cap per night, as well as a meal cap.

“It has been a rough road to execute, but there is solid support from the top when anyone tests the limits,” she says. Not only has the company reduced overall travel spend by nearly half as a result, but, “it’s become ingrained in our culture, so no one treats business travel like a working vacation any longer.”



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Barbara Scofidio is Editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In her 30 years in the industry, she has become known for her passion around greening meetings, growing awareness of human trafficking and promoting CSR activities as part of business events. She is currently a member of SITE's Women IN Leadership committee and the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee. She was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of SITE for 30 years, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. Before joining Prevue in 2014, she served as Editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives (MeetingsNet) for more than 20 years. She has a BA in Literature/Rhetoric from Binghamton University. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.