Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio June
The Law & the Planner
By Jonathan T. Howe,
SAME OLD CONTRACT? LOOK AGAIN
Planners should be watching for new wording in hotels’
When presented with a standard boilerplate contract, many
planners mistakenly assume they’ve seen it all before. They give it
a quick glance, sign it and send it off. The problem: Chances are
it isn’t the same old contract.
Following are some areas to peruse where hotels might have
changed language since the last time you looked.
Many contracts provide for a cutoff date when rooms that have not
been reserved by the group revert to the property for resale. These
clauses previously stipulated that attendees who tried to book
after the cutoff would have the opportunity to book those rooms on
a “space available” basis.
The new language not only specifies space must be available, but
the negotiated rate must be available, also. Chances are, however,
that rate won’t be available. Planners should try to get the
wording changed to something like: “The last room available,
regardless of published rate, shall be sold at the convention
Until recently, most attrition clauses were based on the total room
pickup for the duration of the meeting. This is what I call a
“horizontal” calculation. In other words, if you had 350 room
nights booked over three days, regardless of the number of rooms
used per night, you would not have an attrition charge if your
total pickup was 350.
Today, however, those clauses often are calculated on a
“vertical” basis. Attrition is based not on the total room nights
you pick up, but on how many room nights you use each day. If you
have promised 100 room nights on Monday and 200 on Tuesday, you’ll
be charged for falling short on Monday even if your numbers far
exceed the block on Tuesday.
Does the hotel impose resort fees, service charges or early
departure fees? These are just a few of the surprises that have
appeared on attendees’ bills over the past year or so.
If these charges are unacceptable to your group, the contract
must state so. And, if that’s the case, you should advise attendees
that such fees should not be signed for at checkout.
On the other hand, if the charges are agreed upon in the
contract, it should also specify that early departure or forfeiture
of deposit fees will be counted toward your attrition costs. You
want credit for “a room paid for,” not “a room paid for and
SELLING AGAINST THE BLOCK
Recently, we have seen hotels selling against the meeting planner’s
block. For instance, a planner blocks 1,000 rooms in a 2,000-room
hotel. The hotel then goes directly to the attendee base, generally
exhibitors, and offers them a better deal than the negotiated rate.
Then the hotel refuses to credit the group for the rooms bought
outside the block.
This can happen unintentionally, too, with attendees finding
Internet deals or other discounts. Planners should be assured that
if a person from the group has booked a room, the group gets
credit, no matter the rate paid or means of booking.
Always make sure there is a comprehensive statement in the
contract stating that the group will be credited for all guests on
the event’s registration list. A provision should be made that the
planner will be able to cross-match housing lists with the hotel’s.
Many times the name on your list might not match the hotel’s. For
example, I might be “Jon Howe” for the meeting, but “Jonathan T.
Howe” for the hotel to match credit card requirements. Make sure
you have the right to verify the names so every head is
Howe, Esq., is a senior partner in the Chicago and
Washington, D.C., law firm of Howe & Hutton, Ltd., which
specializes in meetings, travel and hospitality law. Legal
questions can be e-mailed to him at email@example.com.
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