The topic of “What’s New in Contract Negotiations” is an interesting one as well as ever-changing. It seems there is something new that pops up with every contract. It was interesting to hear both the planner side and supplier side of “What’s New” at the Michigan Meetings Expo Idea Swap sessions.
A few recurring themes were attrition, cancellation and resort fees. It seems that hotels are starting to be a little bit more flexible in regards to attrition, making sure to protect the hotel as well as have the planner feel at ease with signing the contract. For me, working for a seasonal hotel, during peak season we are less flexible with attrition than the off-season. The reason is that we could sell all of our rooms on a weekend in July and if a group is holding them and then drops their block shortly before the conference, we may not be able to re-book those rooms. It seems to be more of a trend for planners to re-write the cancellation policy as well. As long as it favors both parties, no one thought this was a big hurdle to overcome. Resort Fees are always a hot button. The consensus of our discussion group was that as long as the planner felt they were getting value out of the amenities offered, it was not an issue.
We have also been seeing hotels being bought out by independents or hotels losing their franchise flag. It should be in every contract that should there be any type of purchase or change of hands of the hotel itself, to have this listed in the contract as a reason to be able to cancel. The same goes for construction during your event.
During negotiations, many planners will let you know what one hotel is offering compared to another. While this is great information to have, with hotels currently offering so many unique amenities, it is hard to offer the same amenities as a competitor. For example, one hotel may offer a lower room rate, though their overnight parking fee is $25. This also ties into Resort Fees that we spoke about earlier (many Resort Fees will include parking).
Something I learned at a very young age is “It can’t hurt to ask, the worst they can say is no.” So when negotiating, be upfront and honest with what is important to you and more than likely, you will get it!
TIP: If you as a planner have more than one meeting per year or one large meeting per year, negotiate with the hotel to bring more than one event to that hotel and it will result in better rates and concessions!