5 Tips on Negotiating with Hotels Post COVID-19

5 Tips on Negotiating with Hotels Post COVID-19

 

There is no doubt the recent COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world. The future of commerce is still unknown as we begin to open back up while staying safe.

However, as life often demonstrates, there are also benefits that come out of the crisis as well. One of these is that negotiations with hotel properties hosting meetings and events will be stronger. Krystal Gonzales is the VP of Sourcing and Supply Chain Management for leading global meeting strategists, American Meetings, Inc. She recently pulled back the veil on what this really means to those looking to plan live events in the next year.

AMI Digest: Tell me a bit about how hotel negotiations happened before the COVID pandemic.

KG: Previously, the main goal when negotiating with a hotel or venue revolved around the rate, availability, and terms and conditions that represented a financial liability for the client.  Those clauses were actively challenged by hotels. Prior to this pandemic, we were in a market where hotels had increased demand that allowed them to be more conservative with their negotiations. It gave them the power to call the shots. Now, the switch has been flipped and hotels are being forced to be much more aggressive with concessions and flexible in their negotiations.

AMI Digest: Kind of like the switch between a seller’s and buyer’s market in real estate?

KG: Exactly. It makes it even more important for clients, those who want to host an event, to use a third-party agency that is familiar with negotiation and changing laws to protect their rights when booking. My first tip is to use an agency like American Meetings, Inc. Globally, we’ve worked with all major hotel chains and independent hotels and have spent millions in revenue dollars.  This allows us to leverage our relationships and buying power for better rates and terms for our clients.

AMI Digest: Have any clauses been updated or adjusted due to COVID?

KG: Absolutely.  One of them being Force Majeure.  It allows a client or venue to cancel a contract with no penalty, due to acts of god/natural disasters. This clause is now likely to include the outbreak of disease, quarantine restrictions, epidemic, etc. amongst other verbiage that now exists because of the pandemic.  Several hotel brands have already implemented these changes as they understand the concerns that their clients and travelers feel as we navigate this pandemic. Including these specific terms as part of the fundamental negotiations will become standard practice

AMI Digest: What other clauses or terms should clients be aware of?

KG: Another tip is to ask for No Attrition.  This clause allows for the client to block a certain number of rooms without being held financially liable for the ones that were not booked/used during their event/program. This is especially important during these times as we face more travel restrictions and new quarantine orders that can affect the event’s attendance.

AMI Digest: That makes a lot of sense. What else should we know?

KG: Well, another clause that is recommended, and was critical for all customers who canceled major events in the last (and next) few months is a Rebook Clause. This allows the client to cancel their event regardless of the reason. and utilize the cancellation fees towards a future event within a specific period of time. Cancellation fees will still be owed to the hotel, but will not be lost.  Those funds are applied towards the future meeting as a deposit or final balance.

AMI Digest: How are cancellation fees calculated?

KG: It is calculated based on a percentage of the total dollar value of the event.  Cancellation Clauses will have several tiers with each tier representing a time frame and a percentage.  The closer in time that the event cancellation is given to the hotel, the higher the percentage and penalty. For example, if you have an event where the combined contract value of the guestrooms and food and beverage minimum is $100,000, canceling 6 months out could have a 50% cancellation fee. At one month out, it could be as high as 90-100%. That means clients would have to pay $50k-$100k at the time of cancellation in fees.  Without a Rebooking Clause, that full amount is paid for and lost.  With a rebook clause they can apply all or a percentage of that cancellation towards a future meeting.

AMI Digest: Wow, ok, yes, that is high!

KG: Third-party providers know the verbiage and what to look for in these clauses to make sure these fees are avoided or minimized. Now with our COVID experience, it is more important than ever to have an agency negotiate contracts. The extra experience and knowledge are really invaluable.  In our industry, hotels, and agencies understand the importance of partnership and both will put forth their best efforts into achieving a favorable outcome for our clients.

AMI Digest: You also mentioned new clauses that could be beneficial to add to contracts. Can you say more about that?

KG: There are several clauses that have emerged to ensure that hotels are following local laws and regulations and protect the client if they fail to do so. With these clauses, hotels and their brands are showing their commitment to the safety of the guests.  An example is the Gathering Laws. These relate to the hotel venue being fully aware of what is happening with local/national laws, social distancing restrictions, and being able to comply with those. If they can’t accommodate, or won’t, the client can cancel the agreement without penalty.

AMI Digest: It’s clear to see that this is directly related to this pandemic.

KG: Yes, and it has been wonderful to see the way hotel chains have proactively adapted to the new expectation of the guest’s experience as we live through a time that prioritizes sanitation and cleanliness over a buffet display.

AMI Digest: Time will tell just how and what will be changing in the face of global recovery, health, and safety. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us today!

If you are looking for a third-party negotiator for your next multi-day event, whether ten participants or thousands, AMI is here to negotiate the best terms for your success!

 

How to Staff an Amazing Events Team

How to Staff an Amazing Events Team

As the event host, you’ll play a major role in planning and managing the event, and you’ll have your hands in every aspect of operations from beginning to end.  That said, no one is an island, and you can’t expect to pull off a truly spectacular meeting or convention without a bit of assistance.

You’re going to need a reliable team of experts to manage the various facets of transforming your vision into a successful event.  You need coverage for areas where you have no expertise.  Even if you’re organized and you have a big-picture mentality, you might not know a lot about logistics, technology, décor, customer service, or other integral aspects of making your event a success.

This is where an amazing events team comes into play.  With the right staff on hand to pick up the slack, you can delegate essential tasks to professionals who can handle them, leaving you free to focus on the aspects of planning and managing an event that fall in your wheelhouse.  Here are just a few of the key positions you’ll want to populate with qualified individuals.

Convention Planner

Even though you have the ultimate say in how planning progresses as the host of the event, a professional convention planner can help you to get all of your ducks in a row.  Those who specialize in meeting and event services can help you nail down the details for every aspect of event planning, from branding and promotion, to attendee recruitment and registration, to presentations and technologies, to vendor discovery and contract negotiation, to overall management and follow-up.

Says Tessa Cameron VP of Strategic Sourcing at AMI, “Think of your convention planner as the foundation for a successful event, the base that all the other pieces of your team are built on top of.  This is the first person you’ll want to bring on board when you’re planning an event.  This is the person who can help you put together all the pieces.”

You’ll also need administrators to head up different areas of the event planning and management process.  These professionals will report to you and your event organizer and take some duties off your plate.

Creative Coordinator

Your convention planning team will consist not only of people who handle logistics, but also those who come up with innovative design ideas suitable for your brand and your event.  The creative team will be involved with marketing and promotions for your event, brand imaging at every level (website and social media, as well as print materials at the event), media for presentations, and design and décor for your event.

Everything from event maps, to logos, to banners and kiosks could fall to the creative coordinator and his/her team to create.  Although you’re likely to have some ideas about the design process and your event organizer will probably have suggestions, as well, you really need a creative team in place to bring your vision to life.

Tech Director

There’s no denying the importance of technology in modern day events.  Event the simplest meetings and presentations will benefit from audio/visual elements, and you can use technology in ever-increasing ways to improve logistics, engage your audience, and add convenience to every facet of your event.

Your technical director can help you not only determine which technologies are suitable for your event, but also how to implement upgrades and even find partners in creating custom software or apps for your events.  Whether you want to set up kiosks with tablets featuring interactive displays or you plan to provide all event info and an easy means of event registration via app, you’re going to need a professional that understands the benefits and challenges of working technology into your events.

 

Head of Security

You might not necessarily have to hire this important team member – many venues that host big events already have their own security staff in place or they outsource to a local provider for security details.  If you happen to have an experienced security professional on staff that you trust, he/she can act as a liaison with on-site security personnel to create a plan than ensures safety for event attendees.  Your convention planner can also help you to find security experts as needed.

 

Event Organizer Recommendations

If you’re relatively new to event planning or you’re hosting an event overseas (where laws and expectations are different), you might not even know what types of people you’re going to need to pull off your event.  The good news is that an expert event organizer has the knowledge to guide you through and a network of contacts to tap into for assistance or advice.

The Impact and Effect of Meeting Space Design

The Impact and Effect of Meeting Space Design

People are creatures of habit, even if they don’t always understand the instinctual nature of their habits.  If you are a student of human behavior, though, you can gain some insight into how people are likely to react to certain settings and situations.

If you’ve ever been on the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland, you know what happens when the doors of the elevator first open and people crowd inside.  The first ones in head for the walls and line them, then subsequent rows fill in until people finally fill the room.  Nobody goes to the center of the room until forced there.  This has something to do with survival instinct.  Nobody wants to feel exposed when surrounded by strangers.

What does this have to do with planning meetings and events with event management services professionals?  It can help you to plan a layout and design your space with specific goals in mind, such as putting attendees at ease and creating opportunities for interaction.

 

Plan Your Layout for Your Purpose

Your event is sure to have a slate of planned activities, from speakers and panels, to workshops and networking opportunities, to exhibit halls and interactive game stations, just for example.  For each activity you present to attendees, you should turn to experienced professionals at corporate event planning companies to create an appropriate layout.

For example, an event featuring a speaker will require everyone to face toward the main attraction, and this could be best accomplished by orienting rows of chairs to face a stage.  This isn’t the only option, though.  You could also create a theater-in-the-round type setting to increase engagement and a feeling of intimacy.

Says Tessa Cameron, VP of Strategic Sourcing at AMI, “With careful planning, you can meet multiple goals with your layout.  Do you want people to focus on a speaker?  Do you want them to interact with each other?  Do you want to support group participation?  Your layout can contribute in a big way to accomplishing your goals if you take the time to consider what different layouts are likely to yield in terms of audience reaction.”

 

Consult with Corporate Event Planning Companies on How to Create a Mood

There are so many logistical concerns to consider when planning an event, not to mention the burden of creating relevant, timely, and engaging content.  As a result, creating a mood and ambience for your event could fall low on your list of priorities.  However, working with experts from corporate event planning companies to develop a suitable atmosphere for your event is important.

It can not only create a more immersive and engaging experience, but it can help to put attendees at ease, add cohesion to disparate activities, and set expectations for the event as a whole.  Your event management services partners can lend their expertise to the process.

 

Work on Branding and Theme with Your Event Management Services Pro

Your event space design includes more than furniture and mood lighting – it also entails décor, and corporate event planning companies can help you to come up with ways to add cohesive messaging and design elements to every facet of your event.  With the right décor, you and your event management services partners can unify the entire event while embracing a theme and reinforcing branded messaging throughout.