by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | June 01, 2015
David Gilbert (pictured), President & CEO, Destination Cleveland
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In just over a year, the Republican National Convention will be under way in Cleveland, which beat out dozens of competing cities to welcome the mammoth event. The Cleveland 2016 Host Committee has pledged 16,000 rooms, 90 percent of the city's room inventory, for the four-day convention, which kicks off July 18, 2016.

However, 10 hotels are now reneging on their promises to provide 1,000 of those rooms at the contracted rate, opting to sell directly to delegates and other attendees.

David Gilbert, president and CEO of Destination Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, who was elected president and CEO of the Cleveland Host Committee in April, declined to name the hotels in question, but said he has been working with each to resolve the issue and avoid formal litigation. The hotels holding out represent less than 10 percent of the 120 properties that have signed room-block agreements with the committee, Gilbert added.

Instead of holding the contracted rooms until the RNC assigns them and provides guest names, the rogue hotels have been accepting reservations, often at higher rates than the committee negotiated, from individuals who wish to attend the convention.

"While we have experienced some issues with a small group of hotels, it's important to keep in mind that the number of hotels that did not honor their agreements represents only a very small fraction of the rooms contracted for the convention," said Gilbert. "Negotiating hotel contracts is part of a long process when hosting meetings and conventions in a city, and this type of issue is not unique to political conventions."

Turnover of hotel ownership and management is partly responsible for the problems, noted Mike Burns, senior vice president of convention sales and services for Destination Cleveland. While he expects that the 10 hotels (which he also declined to name) ultimately will honor their obligations, Burns did not rule out pursuing legal remedies. "While litigation is always a last resort, it's an option on the table, and it's up to the host committee whether they want to take legal action," he told M&C.

The Republican National Convention is expected to bring 50,000 attendees to Cleveland and generate some $200 million in direct spending. Furthermore, it will put a national spotlight on the city, generating tremendous marketing value for its hotels and attractions.

Gilbert also is optimistic that the issue will be resolved long before the event. "The Host Committee remains confident we will come to a resolution and that Cleveland will put on the best convention possible in 2016, while showcasing all of the city's great assets as a business and leisure destination well beyond the RNC convention."