Meeting planners, convention and visitors bureau executives, and hoteliers gathered last week at the Passkey Housing Forum in Boston to hash out how to get a handle on some of today’s tough conference housing challenges. Passkey provides online group reservations and housing management services to CVBs, hotels, travel agencies, associations, and corporations.
Greg Malark, chief operating officer of HelmsBriscoe, a site selection company, kicked off the forum with a look into the recent past and near future of both the hospitality business and business in general.
Calling the past seven years “the most dramatic we’ve ever had in our industry,” Malark outlined the ups of 2000, when there was an oversupply of hotels relative to the demand and then the downturn that started with the bursting of the Internet bubble, hotels losing control of their inventory through deals with online travel sites, and, of course, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. “The high-end hotels took low bids,” he said, which drove profit down for everyone. Then supply slowed down because of very little new hotel construction, hotels were converting to the hotel/condominium model, and Hurricane Katrina took many hotels off the market on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. The result, he said, is that “the last three years have been the most profitable ever in the hotel business.”
He also predicted that the nature of business itself is changing from the traditional, hierarchical structure to more of the collaborative network of independent contractors that HelmsBriscoe has modeled since its founding 15 years ago. Click the MeetingsNet Blog for more.
Among the hottest sessions was one on negotiating tips, given by John Foster, Esq., of Foster, Jensen, & Gulley, LLC. As Foster said, “Hotels today don’t hesitate to sue their clients." They’re also trying to shift as much of the risk as they can to meeting planners, which, he said, “I don’t think is unreasonable, as long as they do it the right way.”
is still on planners’ minds, as was obvious from other sessions on housing trends. A roundtable session challenged attendees to come up with some solutions, which included ensuring that the includes a clause ensuring the hotel will match lower published rates—that is, if you can’t get the hotel to agree to not publish any rates lower than your group rates over your meeting dates.
The pre- and post-show blocks also caused angst for the hoteliers and planners in the meeting. One solution for dealing with the under-blocking of shoulder nights was to set a minimum stay, so if someone comes in on a shoulder night, they have to stay through peak nights as well. “Once peak nights sell out we lift that restriction,” said one attendee.