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Hotel Contract Negotiations – Why Can’t I Do That?

Hotel Contract Negotiations – Why Can’t I Do That?

(this is an update to the original post from May 2018)

Often when we as meeting planners negotiate with our hotel partners, we find ourselves sometimes asking “why can’t I do that at the hotel?” or “why is it so expensive to do this?”.  These are great questions to ask; it means you’re challenging status quo and doing what’s best for your organization!

Often times, there are legitimate reasons for why hotels have to say no, or stick a hefty price tag to your request.

Below are a few common “why can’t I do that” hotel contract scenarios:

Why Can’t I Bring In My Own Food or Caterer to the hotel? – this isn’t only about revenue and cost recovery for the hotel, but often its more about health, worker safety and liability issues if something happens to your delegation, catering staff and the hotel staff. Using the hotel’s in-house food and beverage team or their preferred caterer is most often in your best interests.  You can keep costs down in a variety of other ways if its about controlling your food and beverage budget.

Why Can’t I Use A Meeting Room As A Hospitality Suite? Similar to the scenario above, there are liability issues that stem around bringing outside alcohol into a meeting room.  The hotel’s liquor license may not cover guest alcohol, and thus leave them (and you) open to liability.

Why Can’t I Negotiate Parking? Parking is often controlled by a different company than the hotel or convention centre, leaving it outside the control of the amiable salesperson with whom you’re working on your venue contract.

Why Is Meeting Room Internet SOOO Expensive?? Short story, wiring a facility for 500+ connections is a lot different than wiring your home.  It can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars to create high-speed connectivity for so many people in high concentration.  You can be more successful in negotiating wifi if you know your needs and can have an honest chat with the hotel about your requirements – tips on assessing your wifi needs can be found here.

Why do they charge for bringing in my own AV firm?  Hotels have preferred partnerships with AV firms for many reasons; some of which include convenience and familiarity of the property.  When a meeting planner would like to bring in their own AV (and save some money) it still falls on the onsite AV staff for service of some of the resources you and the third party firm are using.  Everything from electrical, internet, and rigging may fall under this category.  Often the hotel will not allow you to use another firm for rigging due to safety and liability constraints.  It doesn’t mean meeting planners shouldn’t obtain quotes from outside firms if you feel the onsite AV firm is too expensive; it just means ensure you know your full limitations when using an outside firm.

Why Do I Need to Guarantee So Many Guest Rooms? Convention hotels are built specifically to attract conference revenue versus business travellers and vacationers.  Guest room revenue is where hotels make their most profit, so selling those rooms along with the meeting space is good business sense.  Every hotel’s guest room to meeting space ratio will be different as well, which is why you may have been able to negotiate fewer rooms at one hotel, and then asked to guarantee more rooms at the next.  Guarantees also fluctuate in market conditions – its tougher to wiggle on guarantees in a seller’s market.

Why can’t the hotel just donate any leftover food to the food bank?  Its likely not because the hotel doesn’t WANT to donate any leftovers, but health regulations likely prohibited them from donating certain items.  Food banks can only take food that has been heated and cooled properly, including when its in transportation.  Some foods spoil quicker than others, and some foods are spoiled when other enhancements (like salad dressings) come in contact with the food.  The BEST strategy for food donation is open communication with your hotel’s f&b team.  Please refer to this FANTASTIC article by industry friend Sandra Wood on food donation.

Remember, everything in your hotel contract is up for negotiations.  It’s a matter of being honest about the things that really matter to your organization, and items where you can have a little flexibility.  Being flexible and looking for ways the benefit both your organization and the hotel will make for a long-term positive relationship, and translate into more value and service for your meeting attendees.

Do you have any other fun “why can’t I do that” questions about your hotel contract?    Let me know and I may include in a future blog post!

RELATED – Tips for Containing Wifi Costs

RELATED  – Creating a conference budget

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