This past October, in
a first for the meetings industry, Marriott International announced
that, in an effort to streamline its group commission payments made
to third parties, it will fully centralize and automate such
payments beginning Jan. 1, 2007.
Further, the Washington, D.C.-based
hotel chain now will require that any third party doing business
with any of the company’s properties be accredited through one of
five major travel industry organizations.
According to David Marriott, senior
vice president of global and field sales, the hotel company has
been paying accredited travel agents as far back as 1991 through an
automated system and had been considering “making the move into the
group realm for a while.”
The numbers of third parties doing
business with Marriott has swelled in recent years. In 2005,
third-party group business accounted for three million room nights,
on which the chain paid out a standard 10 percent commission to the
tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
David Marriott said the decision to
move ahead with the process was a response to complaints made by
accredited third parties that were frustrated by late commission
payments as the chain struggled to identify exactly where its
commission monies were going.
“We have had to deal with so many third
parties who are not accredited, and this will be a huge benefit for
those who are,” said Marriott, who added, “The program is fair and
gives everyone an opportunity to participate. They just need to get
Accreditation must come from one of the
following five industry organizations:
* The Airlines Reporting Corp.;
* The International
Air-lines Travel Agent Network;
* The IATAN Travel
Sales Intermediary Agency;
* The International
Air Trans-port Association, or
* The IATAÐTravel
Indus-try Designator Service.
“Marriott is doing the right thing,”
said Brian D. Stevens, president and CEO of Los Angeles-based
ConferenceDirect, one of the largest third-party firms in the
United States. “Anyone today can be a third party without any
accountability. Having this certification will weed out some people
who really should not be in the business. Marriott and other
companies actually work with us on educational programs to make us
more knowledgeable about how to sell their brands, making us more
valuable to our customers.”
It is still too early to tell how many
other hotel chains will follow Marriott’s lead, but according to
White Plains, N.Y.-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide’s
David Scypinski, senior vice president of industry relations,
Starwood is “reviewing its options” in light of the move.
In 2005, according to Scypinski,
Starwood paid group commissions to more than 2,000 third parties, a
number that has grown by as much as 20 percent year-over-year for
the last three years.