Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio May
The Law & the Planner
By Jonathan T. Howe,
WHO’S RUNNING THE HOUSE?
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
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
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
IT’S OUR PARTY
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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