May 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio May 2003 Current Issue
May 2003 lawandplan.gifPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

The Law & the Planner

By Jonathan T. Howe, Esq.


Specific clauses can protect against management changes or competition during your event

A fear many planners have is that the management of a hotel or venue they have booked will change before the event date. Nobody wants to walk into the facility for a pre-con and find that the new management in either the hotel or the convention center is not to their liking.

The contract will dictate how to handle this situation. We encourage the inclusion of a clause that allows the planner to cancel or modify the contract should the management or brand change before the meeting.

When hotels change brands, it not only affects the planner/facility relationship but also can alter the perception attendees have of the property. One does not want to move from a perceived five-star hotel to one where they leave the lantern on for you. As a precaution, planners should include a contract provision that allows an escape. Here is a clause you might wish to consider:

Change in Ownership or Flag The Hotel shall notify the Organization promptly if there is a change in ownership or flag of Hotel prior to the Meeting, and the Organization shall have the right to cancel the Agreement without liability upon written notice to the Hotel.

Changes at convention centers are a little more dicey, since most are operated by municipalities or other state bureaucracies. Yet, we have seldom had difficulty arise from a management change at a center. A thorough job description, outlining what tasks the center is responsible for and what the planner will handle, should do the trick, because a change in management does not mean a change in responsibility.

Can planners contract against having their competitors meet at the same time in the same place? Can trade show organizers make sure a competing show does not take place during theirs or immediately before or after?

It is not unusual to include requirements in contracts that exclude the right of potential competitors to muscle in on your event. You need to state in the contract that no competing organization will be able to book at the same time.

To enforce this, you must have an affirmative obligation on the part of the venue to provide information as to who will be meeting before, during and after your program. You should require this of both the hotel and the convention center you are using.

Having started my practice as an antitrust lawyer, I continue to watch cases that relate to limitations on such opportunities. The situation here is that there are always other events or alternatives available to market. There are other places to go. Thus, you can insist on the “limited exclusive.” Following is a sample clause to use as a starting point:

Conflict Avoidance To avoid any potential conflict with the Organization, the Hotel shall not provide any guest room block, hospitality suites and function space over the period of [insert blocked dates] without the prior written approval of the Organization. Upon notification from the Hotel, the Organization shall promptly notify the Hotel if it will release the space. If not, the Hotel shall not release the space to such persons or organizations.

The Hotel shall use its best efforts not to accept during such period any booking that the Organization has informed the Hotel may result in a conflict. This shall also include any person or group that may have a simultaneous presence in the venue during the meeting dates that might be in competition to or otherwise embarrass the Organization, its attendees, exhibitors or guests.

In all such cases, competent guidance by legal counsel for the contract and antitrust concerns is mandatory.

Jonathan T. 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

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