Room Negotiation 101: Think Like the Hotel's Director of Sales

You're the event planner for next year's annual conference, convention, sales kickoff, or other meeting, and you need to book space at a venue.  While you're working on your Request For Proposal, walk a mile in your hotelier's shoes to make your business more attractive, and get better rates on the overall package your salesperson can offer.

Think like a Director of Sales

Hoteliers get many RFPs each week, and need to prioritize how to respond to inquiries based on the potential for revenue, seasonal demand, existing relationships, and total value of the meeting.  Before you send your RFP, think about the view from the other side of the negotiating table, and ask yourself “if I was working for the hotel, would I want to book this meeting?” 

Room Nights are #1

At the end of the day, hotels are in business to make money, and the most profitable part of their business are on room nights you can commit to for your event.  With margins as high as 70%, this is the first thing a hotel is going to look at when evaluating your RFP.  Larger room blocks can net you a lower rate, or make it easier to negotiate other line items in the package.  Always be conservative with your room block - you will end up paying for rooms you commit to but can't use.

Be Flexible on your Date

It's the age old law of Supply and Demand – if a hotel is running a high occupancy during your group’s dates, the sales manager will have less flexibility on room rates.  In contrast, an empty hotel is a buyer's market, and the hotelier will be more likely to commit to additional concessions and/or lower room rates.  If possible, include alternate dates in your RFP, or let the hotel know you’re open to shifting the checkin/checkout dates to receive lower rates. Tuesdays- Thursdays patterns are typical for group hotels, in an effort to fill other nights, hotels are more likely to offer lower rates if your group can shift the pattern.

Food and Beverage Guarantee

Even if you can't commit to a large room block, F&B Guarantee can be another source of revenue for the hotel.  If you can include a meal, snacks, cocktail reception, or even a coffee break with your requirements, you'll have more leverage to negotiate rates on meeting space than without the F&B.

Good History

If you have strong numbers to show from previous years, the hotel will be more interested in working with you.  When the event has been successful before, it's less risky for the hotel to contract with you, and it demonstrates that your guarantee numbers are reasonable based on your history.  Also, the hotel can factor in the value of future events when bidding, looking to build a long term relationship with your organization.  Good history is one of those "you have it or you don't" categories, but if you haven't been keeping detailed records from previous years, there's no better time to start than right now. 

Pro Tip:  Your event history is more than just attendance numbers and room nights consumed.  If you can show how much total business your event and attendees historically bring to hotel restaurants, bars, gift shops, and other sources of revenue, you'll continue to increase your leverage with the venue.  You’ll need help from the hotel to determine these numbers, of course, but this will help the venue determine the total value of your business.

What tips and tricks do you have to make your event more attractive to hotels?  Share your success stories in the comments below!

Free Webinar:  Book the Perfect Event Space Under Budget - Learn how the Cvent Supplier Network, a free resource for meeting and event planners, can help you find the best venues for your events, send and track RFPs, and easily compare bids.

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