Event planners can always use some solid advice when it comes to contracting with hotels and getting a great deal. Take it from someone on the supplier side -- these five tips will go a long way:
1. Ask the hotel what its preferred patterns are. In general, most hotels prefer Sunday to Wednesday and Thursday to Sunday patterns. Ask the question in the early planning stages so you can plan your meeting accordingly. If you're flexible with dates and patterns, I would even recommend asking the sales manager if there are any "holes" you can fill. You'll not only impress them with your knowledge of this concept, but you may swing yourself a deal. Holes are difficult to fill and thus less-expensive.
2. Request a sliding scale cancellation clause. With this shaky economy, you never know what meetings you might have to cancel or postpone. Protect the interests of your company using a sliding scale policy, which are most effective when planning meetings far in advance. If you cancel far enough out, the hotel has a chance to recoup the loss and you won't be paying as much as you would with a standard, flat cancellation fee.
3. Calculate financial contributions to the hotel. Before you begin your negotiations, calculate the average that you plan to spend at the hotel. Include the sleeping room rates, food & beverage, audio/visual, meeting room rental, etc. If you don't make this estimate, the hotel will. Avoid sticker shock and be prepared to support your numbers for negotiation.
4. Don't be the "Unwanted Meeting." Yes, it's true. There is such a thing as an unwanted meeting. Recall that I mentioned the holes before? You do not want to be responsible for creating a hole in the hotel's business pattern. With poor rooms-to-space ratios coupled with sleeping room patterns, your business could be denied. As I stated above, ask the question first. Find out what kind of business the hotel hopes to attain. Once you know, spin your program to fit and use your "good business" as your best bargaining tool.
5. Request value-added concessions. I see so many RFPs that float across my desk every day with absolutely no requests for concessions. If you don't ask, you won't get them!