Bruce Harris Bruce Harris on Meeting Planners' Greatest Peeves

Can We Thwart Hotel Pirates by Creating Incentives?

May 05, 2006

Planner Peeve   -- Pirates continue to solicit convention attendees and lure them to book hotels that are not part of the group block. This causes attrition and hurts the hotels in the block. What can be done?

It is not rocket science to be able to find hotels at lower rates when booking a room 60 days or fewer before a convention. Most times, anyone could do it.

The difficulty is holding the rooms for many years and getting a fair rate so that attendees are guaranteed to have a place to stay during the meeting. By luring attendees to other hotels, both planners and their hotel partners are damaged. If there were incentives to stay inside the group block, then the threat of ‘pirates ‘would not exist. What can be done to create that incentive? What action has anyone taken to thwart ‘pirates’? Who has a success story?

Hotels could manage walks better

May 04, 2006

Planner Peeve – Why can’t we planners get advance notice when the hotel decides to “walk” some of their guests? 

It is incredible that this problem has not been adequately resolved considering that it has been occurring since Joseph and Mary were “walked” to a stable! Certainly there will be times when a hotel is short of rooms. (Sometimes it is because the hotel overbooked rooms and sometimes it will occur because guests did not depart on the day promised.)

Regardless of why the situation occurs, few hotels give the planner any warning that there may be a problem. As a result, planners can not pre-determine who among their group are to be walked. Planners are further prevented from ‘incenting ‘ arriving guests to go to the overflow hotels voluntarily. The end results are anger and unhappiness. What can be done to establish an industry standard so that all parties can deal with the problem professionally?

Hotels should give credit for re-sold rooms!

May 03, 2006

Planner Peeve -- Why should I pay full price for rooms that the hotel didn’t pick up when it has resold those rooms to others?

There is something that feels inherently unfair to a planner when they are asked to pay damages for the rooms that they were unable to pick up when they are sold to other guests of the hotel. They reason, “Is it fair for the hotel to get paid twice for a guest room? If the hotel is not ultimately damaged, why should they reap a financial benefit at the planner’s expense?”

Many hotels point to two items:

First, the planner signed a contract and is obligated to fulfill it.

Second, there is a cost involved in re-selling the room (which many times is sold at a lower price because of the short lead time) so the hotel should reap the benefits of their efforts.

Is there a middle ground that would satisfy everyone’s needs?

Internet rates are lower than my group rates

May 02, 2006

Planner Peeve:  The hotel’s posted Internet rates are lower than my group rate.

When you publicize the room rates that you negotiated so hard to get, you expect that your attendees will be happy with your efforts. But, when they find lower rates on the Internet (and sometimes at your hotel’s own site), what you get is criticism and your job could be at risk. Does the hotel have any obligation to protect your group rates through your cut-off dates? Should they inform you in advance if they will be posting lower rates on the Internet? (Note: While many chains have improved in this area, it continues to be a problem.) How does a planner protect against this? Suggested contract language Internet Rates are lower than my group rate

Where Did Disclosure Go?

May 01, 2006

Planner Peeve: The hotel is not telling me if a commission is being paid on my meeting.

What ever happened to this industry’s commitment to full disclosure on bookings that are commissionable to a third party?  It took years to get the hospitality industry to agree to reveal to the ultimate purchaser of a meeting that a commission was being paid to a third party. In the last few years, most hotel chains have quietly agreed to replace the term commission with the phrase “a fee has been paid.”

I have asked many meeting planners if they think that the term commission and fee mean the same thing. Everyone asked,  thought that a fee meant a fixed amount. Everyone was surprised and disappointed to hear that the term fee actually refers to a commission.

Should the hotel community re-embrace full disclosure and show commissions as commissions in their contracts?

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