CLAUSE: Early departure fees are part of a hotel's strategy to maximize occupancy. If a guest makes a reservation for four nights and leaves after only two, the hotel might have already turned away business that it could have accepted.

EFFECT: Depending on whether meeting attendees are paying for their own room nights or the group is paying for all or some of the room nights on a master account, this is a contract clause that could affect the group, the attendees, or both.

If the meeting attendee/hotel guest is not aware of the early departure fee, then paying it could leave the attendee upset with both the hotel and with the group.

To minimize the negative impact of early departure fees on the group or its attendees, the group should:

  • Make sure that the clause allows the guest to verify and change the departure date at check-in, so that the early departure fee is only charged if the guest changes his departure date after check-in.

  • Make sure that the early departure fee can be waived if a guest must check out before the verified departure date because of an emergency. The hotel may request documentation of the emergency.

  • Disclose early departure fee policies to attendees on the housing reservation form, Web site, or meeting registration materials so that attendees are aware of it up front.

  • Consider negotiating a waiver of the early departure fee for staff, VIPs, and speakers.

If early departure fees are collected by the hotel from group guests, those amounts should be documented and credited to the group's pickup for the purpose of calculating attrition. After all, it is still revenue that is received by the hotel from the group's attendees.

Tyra W. Hilliard, Esq., CMP ( is an associate professor of event and meeting management at The University of Nevada — Las Vegas.

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