Negotiating hotel contracts for your group’s stay needn’t be a winner-take-all proposition. With the right game plan, you can ensure that both you and the property come out ahead. written by Monica Simmie
When it comes to hotel contract negotiations, there are dozens of ways to maximize benefits, while minimizing your spend and without sacrificing the quality of your event or the hotel’s bottom line. Remember, you and your venue are partners and both sides must gain from the transaction. If, for example, you find that the hotel is unable to lower its bedroom rate, look for concessions elsewhere.
❍ Rate Protect. Ask the hotel to guarantee that it will not offer lower room rates by phone, on its website or in any other promotion during your programme. This will encourage your delegates to book inside your room block, helping you meet your contracted numbers and adding to those complimentary room nights. Alternatively, ensure that delegates who book rooms at discounted rates are counted in your pickup.
❍ Complimentary Accommodations. Would the hotel be willing to offer one complimentary night for every 40 paid, rather than 50? Ask that upgraded rooms, such as suites, be counted as two room nights or more, depending on the price point. Include any nights that are booked three days prior to, and three days after, your conference dates. After the conference, audit the hotel’s guest list against your conference registration list, to ensure that rooms booked outside your block are credited to your account. The hotel would not have had that revenue if not for your event.
❍ Attrition. Request the ability to reduce your room block by certain percentages at certain dates. Include clear language on mitigation, so that you are given credit against attrition damages for any rooms the hotel resells, if you don’t meet your minimum pickup.
❍ Upgrades and Discounts. Depending on the size of your event, you may be eligible for a complimentary suite and/or accommodation upgrades. Staff rooms might be offered at a deep discount, to be used during the event, or beforehand, for site inspections.
❍ Relocate clause. If your delegates arrive to find their reservations have been cancelled because the hotel has overbooked, ask the hotel to secure comparable accommodations at its expense and include transportation to the new venue for the guests. Ensure that the room nights at the new hotel are counted towards your room block and complimentary nights!
❍ Complimentary Meeting Rooms. Ask for complimentary function space, if certain food and beverage minimums are met or guestrooms picked up. Contract to allow for some reductions in these minimums without affecting function-space pricing.
❍ Outside Contractors. Request the ability to hire outside contractors without a surcharge from the hotel or its preferred supplier.
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
❍ Price Guarantees. If you are booking a venue years in advance, the hotel won’t guarantee prices. However, the hotel should be willing to include a clause that limits annual increases to a firm percentage and to set a date after which food costs are locked in.
❍ Reduction Clause. Ask for the ability to reduce your anticipated food and beverage spend by X per cent by a pre-determined date, without penalty. If your anticipated attendance doesn’t materialize, you’ll be able to cut back accordingly.
❍ Catering. If part of your event is at an off-site venue that does not provide catering, ask the hotel to be your supplier. Count this towards your contracted food and beverage spend.
Cancellation. Hotels like to calculate cancellation damages on anticipated guestroom and food and beverage revenues. Damages should be based on lost profits rather than revenues.
Extras. Ask for complimentary use of the hotel’s health club for delegates and Internet access in guestrooms and meeting rooms. Some hotels are now charging a flat rate per-item for Internet access (that’s right; for each of your iPhone, iPad, iPod, laptop) rather than per-room. If guests must pay, negotiate the price up front and ensure it’s per-guestroom rather than per-device.
Guest columnist Monica Simmie is director, professional development and partnerships, at Canadian Public Relations Society, Inc. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org