January 6, 2008

Pre-Nuptials for Hotels and Event Professionals – Contract Basics

If you think of a hotel or venue contract in the same vein as you would a pre-nuptial agreement your perspective may change. As with any contract, hotel or venue contacts have conditions and parameters designed with both parties in mind.

Seasoned event professionals who have excellent relationships with their facility representatives understand the value of discussing specifics to negotiate a win-win for all. Whether negotiating a meeting for 25 people or convention for 500, contracts are a stepping stone to a successful event and ultimately, an event planners success. Open communication is the key, as with any marriage. Here are a few reminders to ensure a happy, healthy and prosperous “marriage” with your hotel or venue.

1. Legal name: The company or organization responsible for and answerable to the conditions of the contract (not necessarily payment) should be accurate. Ensure the legal entity on the contract is spelled correctly.

2. Patience: Everyone is under the gun and has deadlines. Reality check - you are not the only game in town. If you have short turn around times other bookings and clients may need to be contacted, re-negotiated or relocated. Realistic expectations of time lines for you, your client and the hotel will make the booking process and experience much more enjoyable.

3. Use the phone – call! You may get the answers you need and more quickly. Sales representatives are inundated with detail which may not translate clearly in lengthy emails. Your representative is human and human contact will help nurture your relationship with the facility.

4. Signing on the dotted line: A hotel contract should only be signed by the person(s) authorized to review and sign the hotel contract. If you have more than one signing officer, authorized staff member or require more than one signature, ask your facility representative to revise the contract indicating the names and titles accordingly.

5. Contract negotiations: Depending on the type of booking and components of your facility contract, identify the must have’s, required and desired points of negotiation for you and/or your client. Areas of possible negotiation can be based on a myriad of factors that you may not be privy to, including the revenues your event will generate, time of year, day, and week, current or anticipated availability during your event, facility policies and your space requirements.

6. Function name: The name of the conference or meeting you would like displayed on reader boards, registration desk, reservation channel etc. may not be the same as the organization you are representing. Differentiate and articulate to avoid contract, delegate reservation and on site challenges.

7. Be realistic as to your needs: Be ready to provide historical data. Make it a habit to get the as much detail regarding guestrooms types, reservation pick up, patterns, function attendee numbers and revenues for the last event you are re-booking. This is good housekeeping and should be done as soon as possible following an event or convention. Today’s refined computer systems allow relatively easy access to this information.

8. Additional charges: Be sure you know whether additional charges will be added to the hotel contract after the contract is signed. Ask specific questions regarding additional costs for electrical hook-up, phone lines, equipment, audiovisual, skirting on tables, porterage, etc. If there is a charge for these services, it should be specified in the hotel contract. Taxes rates are not controlled by the hotel. Ask if there are any anticipated increases or decreases. Don’t be surprised to see “rate are subject to change and availability without notice” in certain sections of your contract.

9. Clarify Terminology and contract language: If you don’t understand specific terms of the contract ask for clarification and ask your representative to re-word it in terms you/your client understands. There’s no point in adding to the confusion and increasing the chances of error when you are on site and running in 20 directions.

Unfortunately previous experiences have made it necessary for hotels to implement safety nets in their contracts. Over the last 25 years hotel and venue contracts have become cumbersome, standardized and loaded with jargon that often only corporate lawyers understand. The most important thing to remember is that contracts are templates and have components that can be “massaged”. Exactly like a Pre-nuptial or come to think of it, separation or divorce agreement!

JSY INNovations provides practical and tactical marketing solutions that create identity, build awareness and increase positioning. With over 25 years of hotel, event and hospitality experience, JSY INNovations provides sales, marketing and media services for hospitality, event and meeting professionals. Phone: 905-633-8508 or visit jsyinnovations.com.

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