Hotel owners are putting pressure on hotels to produce more profits in this period of very high demand. But incredibly, many hotels have systems in place that make it difficult for groups to fill their blocks. Look at what some of these practices/systems are:

1. Many hotels will not allow name changes on room reservations if they are close to being sold out. These hotels treat a name change as a cancellation, and the group loses the room.

2. Some hotels will not make rooms available to groups after the cutoff date because the contract requires that they do so at the group rate. Hotels can resell those rooms at a higher rate after the cutoff, so it is less profitable for them to extend group rates. I understand this position, but most groups would be willing to forsake their "after cutoff" rate protection to give attendees the option of booking the hotel at a higher rate. (This would also lessen a group's liabilities at each hotel.) When a group does not allow the rate to be increased after the cutoff, some hotels accept reservations from attendees anyway--but at a higher rate and without the group's block being credited.

3. Many hotels do not have a policy in effect that permits a group to match its reservation list against the hotel's "in-house list." (Sheraton is a wonderful exception.) Thus, groups are billed for attrition even though the number of rooms occupied by attendees exceeded allowable attrition. The question is, if hotels sell all their rooms, why would they bill a group for attrition? Sadly, the answer is that some hotels are more concerned about increasing their bottom lines than they are in enhancing the customer relationship.

4. When a hotel does run a group's registration list against its in-house list and finds mis-coded rooms, some properties will not give the group credit for these rooms for the purposes of comps, agency commissions, or attrition. This is probably the greatest injustice of all.

Our industry has many good and extraordinary people. These leaders on the hotel side need to stand up for their customers. They need to look at practices such as these and establish policies that allow groups to get full credit for rooms occupied by their attendees.

Every group should have the right to check its list of registrants against the hotel's in-house list. Ifa hotel hides behind the issue of privacy, then it should be able to provide a list that shows only guest name and arrival/departure information. If there is a match, the planner could provide additional information for the hotel to verify that the guest came to the hotel as a participant in the meeting.

It is also essential for planners to stress in their marketing materials the importance of attendees showing that they are affiliated with the group, which will mean that they are much more likely to get the group rate, and that their rooms will be credited to the group. The real issue comes down to basic fairness. Groups should not tolerate any system that unfairly puts them at a higher risk. Don't be afraid to write to the presidents and sales vice presidents of the hotels where these problems exist. These executives are generally "salt of the earth" people who will support your concerns.

Join me in being heard.