By: Christina Welty
It’s time to plan your upcoming annual convention. The board picked a location – convenient and central to your member base. You have chosen dates (avoiding holidays and competing association’s meetings) and you have sent a Request for Proposal (RFP) to several properties. After reviewing the RFP’s, you selected the hotel. Now, you have to tackle the next step – reviewing the hotel contract. Before you sign on the dotted line, keep the following tips in mind.
- GO BACK TO YOUR RFP
Before you do anything else, review your RFP and make sure everything is covered in the contract. Does the contract:
- List the correct number of sleeping rooms at the requested room rate?
- Articulate the parking and internet usage fees?
- Have the appropriate number of rooms for all of your sessions and other activities? Are they the right size and will you be able to fit everything comfortably, including any special audiovisual?
- Make arrangements for any of your special requests, such as a trade show that involves cooking or moving large pallets onto the show floor?
- ROOM BLOCK & ATTRITION
Review your room block and make sure you will realistically be able to meet the rooms requested. Many hotels will allow for 80-85% attrition, but it can be negotiated if not offered initially. Make sure the word “cumulative” is part of the contract, so you can satisfy the total number of rooms across the duration of the convention instead of having to meet attrition nightly. Also, if the group is typically late to register, request a room reservation deadline of 3 weeks out.
After your meeting is over, if you fall short of your room block, send a registration list to the hotel and have them check to see if any of the rooms were outside of the block. It’s amazing how many people forget to mention the group name when making a reservation or there’s simply an error when booking.
- LOOK FOR HIDDEN FEES
Sometimes, hotels charge per tabletop display, even though it is not much different from having to set up in classroom style. You might also see a per person charge for an outdoor event or per person fee for internet, etc. Some items may be worth it, but think how much $5 per person would cost if you were having a large outdoor event!
There are several important clauses, but some of the most important are:
- Force majeure – protects both the organization and hotel from acts of God (terrorism, labor strikes, extreme weather, etc.) which make it impossible to hold the event.
- Cancellation – usually in the form of a grid, it shows the # days out from the event (360, 180, 90, etc.) and how much the association would be responsible for paying should they cancel the event. Make sure the cancellation clause is mutual in the event the hotel cancels on the group. Also, remember that the hotel isn’t making 100% profit, so cancellations should be based on lost profit, not on lost revenue.
- Liquor liability – requires servers to be trained and refuse alcohol to anyone who appears intoxicated. It also requires the hotel to hold harmless the meeting sponsor should there be a liquor liability claim.
- DAYS VS. DATES
Lastly, I cannot stress this enough. Please make sure the days/dates of the week are accurate! Imagine if your exhibit move-in was supposed to be on Tuesday and the date on your space grid was actually for that Wednesday? Once the contract is signed, it will be difficult to adjust the space for the correct days, especially if there is a group before or after your event.
Paying attention to these tips will help save you time, money and a few headaches in the long run. What other tips do you have when you review your hotel contract?