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Negotiating Tactics For the New Year
Smart ways to reduce the burden of hotel fees
by Mimi AlmeidaFebruary 1, 2013
• Before negotiating meeting room Internet rates, get a rough estimate
of your event’s bandwidth needs via the Event Bandwidth Estimator
developed by the Convention Industry Council (conventionindustry.org).
• To minimize attrition costs on unfilled rooms, consider offering
early-bird registration rates, discounts on food and beverage, or event
giveaways for those who stay at the host
• Be sure that your contract requires full disclosure of all fees up front.
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Each year, planners face a new set of challenges to their budgets. Among the cost concerns meeting professionals are facing in 2013 are stricter attrition clauses, more mandatory and ancillary fees, and charges for Internet use in meeting rooms and guest rooms. Following is advice for tackling these fees.
Tighter attritionA growing demand for rooms and lag in new hotel development have put hoteliers in many large markets -- including San Francisco, Boston and New York City -- back in the driver's seat. Besides raising room rates, many hotels now require stricter attrition and cancellation clauses.
During the recession, hotels were more willing to work with groups that didn't fill their room blocks. For example, they might provide a credit toward a future meeting in lieu of attrition or cancellation penalties. Today, a sellers' market once again prevails.
To prevent huge attrition fees, the best strategy, besides negotiating the best terms you can, is to book room blocks as realistically as possible by paying careful attention to your group's recent booking patterns. (For ideas on avoiding attrition fees, see the M&C article "Are Room Blocks Still Necessary?" at bit.ly/UC1aSO.)
Extra feesExpect to see hotels add more "mandatory" charges and resort fees for the use of pools, gyms, newspaper delivery and housekeeping, to name a few items. Understanding the extent of use or nonuse of these services by your delegates will be important to your negotiating strategy.
Other charges to look out for are ancillary fees, which are extra charges for things like early or late checkout, energy surcharges and porterage, even if you carry your own bags.
Be sure to include a clause in your contract requiring full disclosure of all fees up front, and state that fees not specified in the contract cannot be charged to members of your group without your approval.
Internet chargesCharges for Internet access, in both guest rooms and meeting rooms, will continue to be a major hot button for planners. Guest room fee waivers often can be negotiated in the contract. If a property refuses to waive them, consider having attendees sign up for the hotel's guest loyalty program if it includes complimentary Wi-Fi.
Internet charges for meeting rooms might be harder to get around at many properties and chains. There is very little pricing standardization from facility to facility, so it can be difficult to figure out favorable terms. If you cannot get these fees waived, try to negotiate a reduced rate. A few more tips:
• Be armed with the knowledge of key definitions, such as the difference between megabits and megabytes.
• Discuss meeting-room Internet service and fees with the venue early in the planning stages. Be prepared to answer key questions about group demographics, number of potential users, type of Internet used (streaming video, email) and use of multiple devices.
• If possible, request group Internet usage reports from previous meetings or suppliers to determine the number of concurrent users you had and the amount of bandwidth used at peak times.