Q. Where would a corporate meeting planner find reliable information on the financial condition of a meeting site?
A. Have a conversation with your sales person and ask them for an overview. In most cases, they may need to get it from the CFO or controller. If you are doing a site visit, it’s a good thing to discuss when you meet the GM, or ask to meet controller.
Q. A lot of resorts/hotels were flexible with attrition in the past with the poor economy. Do you see this as returning as a standard, non-negotiable contract item for 2012/2013 contracts?
A. Depends upon supply and demand. Generally, resorts have more flexibility in mid-week patterns compared to high-demand patterns like weekends.
Q. Are most CVBs up to date on occupancy, average rates and RevPAR for hotels in their city, and how willing are they to share this information?
A. Most CVBs will know the data for their destination, and if you ask would likely share it with you.
Q. Do hotel sales people have the ability to waive "resort fees" to a group?
A. Usually not. You might find more flexibility in other areas.
Q. Will you explain a bit more about how who owns the hotel may impact the negotiation?
A. Each hotel (think building) may be owned by someone other than the name of the brand of the hotel (Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Westin, etc.). In most cases there is an owner that hires a hotel management company to run the hotel and use their brand for sales and marketing purposes. Sometimes, that owner will operate the hotel themselves and buy a franchise agreement with some of those same brands instead of having the hotel management company also manage the hotel.
The owner relationship is an important one because it has impact on the sales staff’s ability to be empowered to make decisions. This can often come into play with contract clauses like attrition and cancellation. If someone has attrition or cancelation at hotel “x” and can re-book into another hotel within that chain in lieu of paying the attrition or cancellation, the owner of the first hotel does not benefit by it being replaced into another hotel within the chain.
Q. Is there a resource to see rate increases specific to cities across the U.S.? If so, where can that it found?
A. Smith Travel Research is a great source of data: www.strglobal.com
Q. Is it smart to book meeting spaces in hotels years in advance?
A. Depends on the market.
Q. How far out should I book to make a huge difference in a decision to hold an event in a specific destination?
A. Depends on the event size, supply and demand in the market the event will take place.
Q. Do you find that with the economy people are sharing rooms where before they had a single room? This obviously impacts your guest room numbers.
A. Yes, many organizations are seeing this more often. Some corporations have policies making it mandatory, others make it optional based upon consent of the two roommates, and others prohibit it for liability reasons.
Q. Tracking meeting spend seems to be one of those items properties choose to do or not do at their discretion rather than collaborating with the client and sharing the information. Why?
A. Honestly, it is more work, yet it can be important work. Some are confined by the technology of their operating system, and some use that as an excuse! You may consider making it a service-level agreement in the contract, that they must provide it to you within a certain time frame acceptable to both of you.
Q. Would I save money by not using a third party? Would I get the same room rate if I called directly vs. working with a third party such as Helms Briscoe?
A. Not all third parties are created equal. Some have agreements with hotels that would get the same rate or better, including the commission. Some without these types of buying power and contracts might have their commission added onto the rate. I would suggest that you discuss this with your Helms Briscoe rep and the specific hotel since it would be hard for anyone to know other than these parties.
The question I would seek an answer to is if this is the way that your employer wants to spend your time. Often a third party can reduce the amount of time you are spending going back and forth and searching for venues, and for many, the time is the biggest reason to engage a third party.
Q. Re: Renegotiating contracts in the current economy. Why is a hotel willing to renegotiate the room block but do not want to renegotiate the F&B minimums? Doesn't it make sense that if the room block is reduced, less people occupying rooms equals less food and beverage being consumed?
A. Hotels want full rooms, period. If you are not going to use them, they would like them back so they can sell them to someone else. As it relates to the food and beverage minimum, and in most cases I have heard of, the food and beverage minimum cannot be reduced because the amount of meeting space being used usually does not reduce. Therefore, they cannot resell meeting rooms to someone else unless you give them back. If you are still occupying the same meeting space, it would seem natural from the hotel’s perspective that the food and beverage minimum should stay the same for the same amount of space.
Q. What's the best way to renegotiate a room block, room rate, etc., with a contract that was executed five years ago? Many groups want to book meetings five years out...conditions change (i.e., the economy), so what's the best way to navigate some of the key items in a contract after the fact (in this case, five years later) so both sides experience a "win-win?"
A. The best practice is to review needs annually and continually so that the arrangements are calibrated based upon everyone’s most recent information. If the contract was written five years ago, chances are something has changed since then. Keep communication open on a scheduled basis so that you update at least annually.