A Shock to the System

Here are your verbatim responses to our poll on Marriott's 10 percent commission cut.*

• This is the third time Marriott has attempted to reduce group commissions. It is a clear signal that Marriott doesn't value group business!
• When Marriott started with the Sales Force structure, it negatively affected clients, as they lost the relationship with the sales person. Calling into a call center and siting hotels with different people is a horrible way of developing a relationship with the customer. My clients do not like this structure. Information gets lost along the process, and the clients feel like they are less valued vs. other brands that have stayed with the "old school" sales structure. Marriott thinks only about how they can make money and not about the clients anymore. This has progressively gotten worse in the last 10 years!
• This is another greedy move, on top of so-called resort and other types of fees, and they appear to be never-ending. A 7 percent commission is better than nothing, but it's only a matter of time before that will disappear as well. Killing the hand that feeds them is never a good idea, but while Marriott and its other brands will, of course, survive, I'm just not sure if the independent planner will. An arrogant move nonetheless, and coming out of the company's Washington, D.C., headquarters, it's in keeping with the upheaval coming from that city everyday. God bless America!
• The decision by Marriott is shortsighted. This brand tends to put relationships in reverse -- then, when the market turns, they send out sales folks asking for more business. It is just a matter of when, not if, the economy changes, and when it does, I believe Marriott will/should suffer from this poor leadership decision (greed is not good). JW Marriott's original root-beer stand would not have made it if partners cut their profit by 30 percent!
• The commission cut is truly a slap in the face! Marriott restructured the sales model several years ago, and it's nearly impossible to get a response from the regional sales offices. Once you do, you discover the sales manager has never even seen the property. If you're lucky enough to confirm space and go to contract, the contracts are often incorrect and require additional time spent on the planner's side to push for the necessary corrections. The "factory" model is not working. It seems the sales managers are overworked and unable to respond in a timely manner. I sent an RFP and left a vmail with a Marriott sales manager I've worked with previously. It's been over a week and half and no response! Booked another property with a different chain for this event, as I don't have time to wait around for them. On a separate note, the CRAZY fees continue -- destination fees (ridiculous!), resort fees, service fees are now 25 percent on top of room rental, F&B and sometimes A/V. I don't believe any industry article has focused on the outrageous fees. [Editor's note: M&C has, very recently.] Sadly, just because you pay a "service fee" does not mean you have great service. I've been in the business a long time and could go on and on.
• Marriott did this solely out of greed. They did this because we have no voice. Planners need to stand together. They know that clients will still demand to book at Marriott properties, as they will still get their points and perks.
• Marriott's only goal would appear to be increasing their profit. I don't see their service getting better, quite the opposite. They ruined Gaylord Hotels. They continue to make cuts at the expense of quality product and service all while amassing their inventory. Marriott has misjudged the value and relationship a client has with their third party.
• I think Marriott is pushing the limits to see how much they can get away with, not only with commissions but with contract terms and concessions as well.
• As an associate of a large third party that was not included at this time on the commission reduction, I want to tell you that there were many of my clients who wrote to their Marriott NSOs to tell them that they, in good conscience, would reduce the amount of Marriotts that they source. These clients are booking multimillions of dollars of pure room revenue into Marriott brands at the moment under their SMM programs. The clients are gathering around their third parties, and their support speaks volumes.
• I find it ironic that Marriott's current ad on TV is "The Golden Rule: Treating others like we'd like to be treated. It has always been our guiding principle." Their decision to disrupt the industry and single out small, independent and primarily women-owned/-operated businesses while their profits are increasing demonstrates the true essence of their brand.
• They did zero homework. They will need to reverse their arrogant position.
• I feel that there should have been a production "litmus" test -- large operators should not be commissioned at the same level as one-person planning companies. I also think that hotel companies should not be commissioning end users directly.
• A total shock. It's curious how all hoteliers want our business and then they cut our income. They are already saving important amounts from all the salespeople they have fired with the merger.
• With Marriott advertising their goal to "live by the Golden Rule," I believe this is a direct reflection of how not to handle the situation. Additionally, Marriott has already eliminated many sales managers, placing hotels into "pods" for sales, decreasing the response time and knowledge that each sales manager has for each property. That has meant a significant decrease in customer service as a cost-savings measure, and not a measure by which the customers are receiving better service.
• It is unfortunate, as I am sure Marriott is not "hurting" for money right now based on their annual reports I have read. It is simply greed and rather dishonest. When I worked for Marriott just over two years ago, we absolutely factored commission into the rate when bidding on group business. On the other hand, when an RFP came through without commission, we would actually offer them a higher rate than most third-party business, because we knew most groups not utilizing a third party would not negotiate as strongly and we knew that group had no additional business to offer. So even though the system calculated the commission into the negotiated rate for groups using a third party, those groups still received a more competitive rate because of the relationship and the potential to earn more business from their other clients. So that is why I see this as somewhat dishonest, because when Marriott says the commissions are outpacing the group volume, well, so what? Your system factors commission into the rate it generates for sale managers. Just my opinion, which won't change this decision by Marriott at all. However, our ability to shift market share will.
• This is very upsetting and will impact my income significantly.
• This move further insults individuals who work in what is assumed partnership with properties. Their level of faith with third-party providers is dishonest at best.
• I hope Marriott's decision financially hurts them. They have definitely lost the trust and respect of many of us. They are not true partners.
• We work very hard, and to take a 30 percent pay cut is incredibly disappointing. I have worked hard to PUSH Marriotts...but no longer.
• Marriott requires an IATA# for planners to receive commission. I pay a fee for the number and am classified as a planner not an agency. To expect loyal, small-market business planners to take a 30 percent pay cut in a booming economy is an insult. Adding to that is the big sourcing firms are not included in the cut. Small market meetings are the backbone of many hotels' revenue stream and are often relationship-based business. Apparently, Marriott doesn't need that kind of business. Unless I have a client who absolutely insists on Marriott, I will no longer book at Marriott. My clients are on strict budgets, and by using a commission + small planning fee arrangement, these clients can utilize the services, enjoy a professionally planned meeting and benefit from negotiated savings of a very experienced planner. I do not have the option of passing the loss of commission revenue on to my clients and wouldn't feel right about doing it. Who increases their fees by 30 percent? I hope that Marriott learns a quick lesson and reverses this really stupid decision.
• It's a perfect storm. They have become a monopoly in terms of inventory, and it remains a strong seller's market. But as soon as the market turns back to a buyer's market and there are empty hotel rooms to fill, individual Marriotts will most likely break rank and offer the full 10 percent. I see this as temporary. But Marriott has been anti-independent-planner for decades, and this is not a total surprise. I will avoid using Marriott whenever it is possible, but at the same time, will always do what is in my clients' best interest.
• Hopefully Marriott will lose a lot of bookings/business due to this decision and hopefully they will reverse their decision in the not-too-distant future!
• Historically, Marriott has increased their commission offers in a down economy. Now that we are in a up economy, the perception is that they don't value our business as influencers any longer. They should remember that meeting planners never forget.

• If more planners choose not to book with Marriott, then they will change their tune. It makes me mad. We bring them business.
• Why would any planner (or in house corporate-commissioned travel manager) book a Marriott if there's another viable option?
• There are other hotel chains out there that also offer excellent meeting facilities and services. Why book Marriott when I can get 10 percent commission or more somewhere else?
• I will not willingly give Marriott-owned properties one more dollar for one more client that they could try to turn around and claim for themselves. They have taken over hotel chains [in] trying to monopolize, and they go behind planners backs and try to solicit business. Now to have the nerve to reduce commissions that many of us live on 100 percent as income is outrageous.
• This was an unfortunate decision by Marriott, which has always been difficult and a bully. It's not surprising after purchasing Starwood that they would use their clout to shock the industry in this way. All things being equal (or close) in property considerations, I will do my best to book any brand except Marriott.
• Ultimately, my clients make the final decision. However, I do recommend, and when necessary, I will recommend a non-Marriott brand. 
• Marriott has the worst sales system in the industry. Sales Force One is horrible for the meeting planner trying to book business with a property. Often we know more about the property than the person we are talking to in a central office. We will still book our clients into Marriott's if it's the best for them. But when given a choice, we will choose other brands and independents that value our business more.
• Of course I can't fully avoid selecting Marriott hotels, as it truly depends on the options in the cities my clients need to have their events, and I will always offer all the best options. However, I may not champion those options as strongly if there is another equal opportunity with another brand. I also need to decide if I will try to make up the monies lost on commissions with my fees or not.


• I book hotels based on my clients' preferences.
• Watching trends to see direction of the market
• They are the largest chain and do not really need third parties, as they form a small percentage of their bookings.
• It's business. The future will tell if this sticks. If all commissioned meeting planners move to other brands, then Marriott will feel the impact. But the likelihood of this happening is low, as we have to do what is best for the customer.
• Fee-based is the future for meetings. Adapt or perish.
• Association clients do not have the budget to add site-selection costs to their overall program expenses. I anticipate Marriott's decision will close the doors of some of the smaller third-party planners.

• I think Marriott (and all hotel brands) should demand service from intermediaries -- not all are equal. I understand not giving every company 10 percent, not all deserve it. Some do a lot for them (like us) and are an extension of their sales department. Their national sales staff in many cases (not all) do not do half of the things we do, like negotiate multiyear contracts and get in the trenches to handle problems and come up with solutions for our customers.
• I can understand the move from Marriott; however, it's a brave one as corporates in the U.K. do not want to pay for venue-finding (sourcing, as we call it in the U.K.), and so the commission model pays agencies for their research and expertise. The hotel groups sometimes feel that they are funding this model entirely, and whilst this is true to a degree, we are meant to be seen as an extension of their sales force, and so they should be paying us a fee for our introductions and hard work on each event program. This move will cost both agencies and corporates, as agents will have to either reduce the service and time currently offered to corporate clients or charge for it. The other alternative is that corporate clients will have to take venue-finding/sourcing in-house, which will cost them dearly in new staff and all the costs associated with setting up a new team. For event-management agencies that use the revenue generated through the current commission model to offset their charges for larger events, this revenue stream will be impacted immediately, and fees will have to increase, impacting the end client yet again. Marriott is seeking higher profits and this strategy is simple -- they wants to shift the cost of agency commission to the corporate client.
• Some of the reasons Marriott offers for the reduction are valid. More consideration of the issues is needed before I make a definite decision.
• It is going to help in the negotiations process.
• Boycotts for personal gain are unethical. Hotels offering incentives of higher commission, excessive points, perks, etc., are complicit.

• I anticipated that Marriott would do this, since they have a monopoly and own a lot of market share. What concerns me is that they weren't specific on their spend of that 3 percent, and I understand that they aren't really going to put it back into technology or meetings innovation.
• My belief is that one of the benefits for Marriott in acquiring Starwood is that they would do this. Marriott has over 40 percent of hotels. But when looking at hotels that have meeting space for 500+, I would have to assume it is 60 percent or more. Seems like a monopoly to me. They figure they will get the business anyways. We provide a great deal of value as a partner to Marriott, and this is unfortunate. I am tired of these press releases starting with, "At Marriott we value our partnership with ___" and then they come forward with this reduction.
• It's been headed this way for a while as they try to direct bookings through their own systems.
• It is no surprise that Marriott has made that decision. They had asked for IATA numbers to pay out commissions to independent planners, which affected my business a few years ago. I have influenced my clients to look at other brands, which kept my business alive. I don't book Marriott hotels anymore. However, I was told by a Marriott sales associate that the decision is a result of the owners wanting more profit. If that is the case, these are the same owners who own other brands, which leads me to believe the other brands will follow down Marriott's path soon.


• It is discriminating that the large third-party planning companies are not being subjected to this unfortunate decision by Marriott. We have one client who has already decided not to book nearly 900 room nights due to this decision by Marriott! Marriott's claim that commissions are costing them more than ever doesn't make sense as a percentage. Yes, they are paying more dollars out because their rates are higher than ever, but it's still 10 percent (now 7 percent) of their cost of doing business.
• The favoritism to four or five larger site-search firms is ridiculous and creates an unfair business advantage.
• Level the playing field!! If independent planners get a lower commission, so should the Big Four. Or, if there is a push for planners to go to a fee-only structure, so should the Big Four. The problem is that end-user customers will choose the "free" site-selection service from those that take commissions, and companies like mine will loose that business because we are charging a fee for the service.
• Giving preferential treatment to four large companies has served to fuel the fury. Particularly because the very companies that have the reprieve are a big reason we are here in the first place. Marriott has no more economic reason to reduce commissions than any other chain, perhaps less so. Their stock price is up, and with the consolidation of the brands, they laid off most of the Starwood GSOs, representing huge cost savings. I believe they did it because they are in a unique position at this particular point in time. With the merger, they eliminated more of the competition. Couple that with the fact that it is already hard to find hotels with meeting space, and the likelihood of them losing market share is greatly diminished. Corporations and associations are not geared up to take on the burden, they don't have the staff and rely on site-selection companies for assistance. Some think these organizations should pay for the service, while others feel Marriott is pushing their cost of sale on to the very clients they are trying to attract.
• It's bad enough they are doing that, but even worse that they choose to play favorites and not lower the commissions for four of their clients. It should be the same for everyone. They obviously don't value their industry partners, and it will cost them in the long run.
• I'm OK with Marriott making this business decision. What I'm not OK with is that they are inconsistent and providing exceptions to the Big Four.
• Marriott must reply to independent planners' concerns regarding the differential treatment with larger intermediary firms. A small percentage of my business is leisure travel, and I received a payment of 7 percent commission in 2017 from Marriott. They implemented a policy for travel agents (though I didn't receive any notice) that provides 10 percent only if an agent goes through their Hotel Excellence training program. This may be practical for larger agencies, but not for me. I've had an IATA# since 1981 when I was a travel agent, and I later started my business as a sole-proprietor meeting professional in 1990. When the airlines stopped paying commissions to travel agents, the fee-for-service model evolved. However, the majority of my clients are nonprofit associations, with all-volunteer directors, organizers and rotating board members; they simply cannot afford to pay for my services. Commissions are a valued form of compensation used in other industries (Realtors, insurance, etc). Transparency and ethics should dictate, as in all business-payment models.

• I don't feel that Marriott takes into consideration that we are an added sales arm that they don't pay for until one of their hotels are booked.
• Marriott does not understand the full picture when it comes to third-party planners. We do much more than send and source RFPs. We are truly partners and are assisting our clients on-site at their meetings, on the site visits, on tracking room pickup and audits. All of these services are offered at no charge by many of us, as we rely solely on the commission for payment.
• I don't think Marriott fully understands all of the work we do on behalf of our customers. We are not just order takers. We work extremely hard and long hours to go above and beyond to help our customers have the most successful meetings and events they can. We also help our hotel partners to be successful with customers as well. This is a very shortsighted decision.
• I believe that third-party meeting planners bring a lot of value to the hotels. We are bringing them business that they did not have to pay for via sales trips, trade shows, etc. We bring qualified business to them, source correctly and should be compensated for that.
• Over the years, I have had numerous Marriott employees as well as many other hotel-chain employees tell me how helpful it is to have me interfacing between them and our end client. I save time and energy for hotels and have often served as a mediator saving relationships between hotel chains and corporate planners. Many times, I felt like I was the one training and guiding hotel staff, both sales and operational employees, when upper management lacked proper leadership. It's too bad Marriott doesn't recognize the true value of professional third-party planners who willingly give so much assistance to both the hotel and end client in the interest of creating value and seamless planning for all.
• So disappointed in Marriott. First the IATAN number requirement, now this. Very obvious that Marriott does not value the business planners bring to their hotels.
• Marriott's decision to reduce commissions signifies that they are not interested in being a good partner and they do not understand the value that third-party planners provide to their customers. For Marriott to provide these same services to the customer would cost them far more than 10 percent.
• Hotel sourcing is based on the best fit for the client, not on what percent commission the hotel is paying. It's also important to remember that not all intermediaries are created equal. While my role may be described as sourcing, I also do a tremendous amount of work for my clients, advocate for them and in some cases offer a commission share.

• The fact that Marriott has done this during the strongest three-year run ever for hotels in occupancy, average daily rate and revenue per available room is puzzling. They said their meeting costs are increasing, but they are running all-time highs for revenue and occupancy, so their reasoning doesn't make sense. Marriott is cutting jobs internally and cutting commissions externally. They aren't taking care of their own people, so it's no surprise they aren't taking care of their partners. 
• The reason Marriott provided was confusing, considering they budget for commissions. Also they've been laying off several Starwood employees after the merger and have cut their workforce. Overall, the quality of Marriott has significantly decreased after the merger with Starwood. It's all unfortunate, and they will likely lose business because of it.
• It's a strange direction that Marriott is taking. Marriott is the hotel brand that year after year, ConferenceDirect has booked the most. We have always been told that we are extensions of their sales team and that they value our business.

• The Marriott Starwood merger should never have been allowed to happen, they "own" to much of the market and in some cities, all of the conference market (for example, Boston). The overall size of their company is allowing them to make these drastic changes.
• Sadly, Marriott has been allowed to become a monopoly, and this is what happens when a monopoly is present. We've seen them cutting things way back on the client side, so I have been shying away from booking Marriott as often, but this most recent change will only further solidify that decision. Sadly, though, because of their monopoly, there are many groups where the only option will be Marriott. It boggles my mind that we care about monopolies in some areas, like cable TV, but fail to see and prevent one from being created in the meetings and tourism market. I will continue to push my clients to book with other brands, and will still choose other brands over Marriott even if they eventually reduce their commission as well.
• It's greedy and shows poor partnership. They are creating a monopoly and sending the message, "Go ahead and try to NOT do business with us -- you can't, and we don't need anyone!"
• This appears to be a bully tactic since Marriott has so much market share. They obviously aren't concerned how this could affect their "partners" or internal salespeople.
• Marriott is operating in a monopolistic manner based on market share. My viewpoint is they are shortsighted, as we only receive payment on booked business for which they negotiate the terms and conditions. 

• I think end users who value our partnership need to speak up. The more they push back at Marriott, the more others will reconsider changing commissions. If I don't make as much, I wont be able to give my clients as much personalized assistance, as I will need to have more clients to maintain my income.
• I believe Marriott's move has been misguided with the perception this only affects the intermediary, when in fact many of our larger clients depend on a portion of the commissions in play to offset expenses. This will impact end-user buying decisions.
• I would never stand in the way of booking a perfect hotel for my clients based solely on a commission issue. However, my clients value the service I provide, and they support me. There is a good chance that THEY would not consider a Marriott/Starwood property due to the commission issue. If the hotel is absolutely perfect, I would step away and let my clients book directly, but I don't see that ever happening.

*Some repetitive remarks were not included.