Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio September
Back to Basics
By Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM
ATTRITION Rx: SURVIVAL AND PREVENTION
Some words of advice and actions to take when the room block
Nothing throws off a budget, threatens job security or strains a
planner/vendor relationship faster than an off-balance room block
and a colossal attrition invoice.
A meeting contract’s attrition clause generally is invoked when
the group falls short on the sleeping room block although it can
come into play when there is a reduction in any promised revenue,
such as food and beverage or even spa usage.
Attrition used to affect client-reliant programs, where
attendees pay their own way, to a greater extent than events that
have a more structured and guaranteed attendance, such as a
corporate sales meeting. However, the introduction of new threats
to room pickup including industry competition, economic and
political instability and, of course, discounted and brokered hotel
rooms available on the Internet have made attrition a serious issue
for all types of planners.
LEFT WITH THE BILL
Unfortunately, despite a planner’s best efforts and a rock-solid
attrition clause, organizations still find themselves slapped with
huge fees. If you have a strategic plan in place and have discussed
the possibilities of attrition with your vendor, you are already
way ahead of the game.
It won’t just go away. When the bill comes,
never assume you can get out of paying attrition. Attrition is
neither a suggestion nor an option it is contractually agreed-upon
Compare and contrast. Don’t be afraid to ask
the hotel to compare your attendee list to its room records. Some
attendees might have slipped through the official room block.
Know your organization. Always know what your
firm’s total buying power is. Sometimes, attrition can be spread
out over future business outside your division.
Arrange internal help beforehand. An often
overlooked opportunity for handling attrition charges is to set up
a reciprocal agreement with other event teams in your company. If a
corporation has decentralized its event planning or has
subsidiaries or geographically dispersed offices, get planners in
those areas to agree to help each other during times of serious
attrition by taking on future contracts with the property or by
moving programs to that property.
Put good faith first. One of the best ways to
address attrition is to spread it out via signed contracts for
future business. “With a good working relationship, those involved
generally will find a way to minimize or mitigate these fees,” says
Joe Curran, director of group sales at San Francisco’s Palace
Get out the checkbook. Sometimes, you just have
to pay. Period. In these cases, a staggered payment schedule
usually can be arranged.
Avoiding attrition charges starts with a good contract and an
accurate room assessment. If you are planning a new meeting and
don’t have room-pickup history, discuss the situation with your
vendor partner, then err on the side of an underblock and base your
break-even budget on lower attendance.
Reconsider the language. Simplify your
attrition clause formulas. Many are extremely complex and can
involve percentages of percentages based on several sliding scales
and numerous conditions.
Estimate with precision. Never block more space
than you need, in the attempt to get a better room rate or better
meeting space. And never give false pickup history. Play fair; it’s
in everyone’s best interest.
Ask for help. If you’re unsure about how
effective your attrition clause is or you have any other questions
concerning the contract, contact a lawyer who is well-versed in
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