by By Michael J. Shapiro | July 01, 2009
Omni MandalayAs the hotel industry continues to struggle, many chains and individual properties are allowing more give-and-take when it comes to attrition clauses in their group contracts.

Omni Hotels announced a Zero Attrition program in February, waiving attrition fees for meetings booked by June 30 and held at any of the 43 Omni properties in 2009. At the end of May, as part of a brandwide sales blitz, the Irving, Texas-based chain extended the promotion to all meetings booked through the end of September this year.

The promotion has been very successful, according to Omni's vice president of sales, Tom Faust. "It's given meeting planners the confidence to move forward and book short-term meetings," he said.

In a similar move, Hong Kong-based Langham Hotels International issued a "no strings attached" pledge in May, which relaxes cancellation terms and food and beverage minimums, in addition to waiving attrition fees.

While such promotions haven't been overtly pushed by larger chains, some are willing to negotiate attrition.

"We are looking at all attrition issues on a case-by-case basis and attempting to come up with solutions that work for our customers and for our hotels," explained Larry Luteran, senior vice president of group sales and industry relations for Hilton Hotels Corp. "Of course, our major focus is on doing whatever is possible to make sure group blocks are realized at the expected numbers."

Attrition terms also are case-dependent at Wynn Las Vegas and Starwood Hotels and Resorts, according to company representatives. Negotiations at Wynn are "based on factors such as length of relationship, circumstances surrounding the potential attrition or cancellation damages, future business and so forth," said a spokesperson for the resort.

Gerilyn Horan, Langham's director of global sales for North America, believes her company's overt promotion of relaxed terms is better than a case-by-case approach. "Rather than potentially missing out on business, let's put the news out there," she said.

Whether advertised or negotiated behind closed doors, an attrition-fee waiver should be spelled out explicitly in the contract, advised Jonathan Howe, senior partner in the hospitality law firm of Howe & Hutton Ltd. "If there's no attrition clause, there is a possibility that the planner could be charged with a breach of contract for not having met the room block," he said.