A former sales executive with the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., answers your top five questions on how to get a good deal when negotiating with a casino resort.
What is the first question a meeting planner should ask to get the best deal?
“What can I get?” It might seem simple, but the key to creating a win-win situation is to open a dialogue, set goals and objectives, and realize that everything really is negotiable — if you ask.
What is the one area in which you are really able to negotiate on price?
A casino resort has a revenue stream that traditional hotels don't have — the casino. That means it can offer better group room rates than competitors whose main revenue is generated from guest rooms. With the right profile and itinerary, a group can have a lot of leeway when it comes to room rates.
What do you mean by that?
For instance, a group that typically plans a dinner from 6 to 8 p.m. and schedules meetings for 7 the next morning could probably get a better room rate if they agreed not to schedule the dinner. If a group allowed attendees time to participate in offerings throughout the property — shopping, restaurants, nightclubs, entertainment venues, and so on — that's taken into consideration when booking a piece of group business.
What special items could you offer to a participating group?
Since the Seminole tended to focus on bringing specific demographic groups to the property, when we identified one, we were willing to “wheel and deal” a bit more than a typical hotel, offering upgrades or benefits such as a welcome reception, upgraded menu selections, and free meeting room space. At a time when many properties have gone back to securing revenue from meeting room rentals, this is one of the first discounts casino hotels often put on the table.
It's often said that all casinos compete with Las Vegas. Why wouldn't a group just meet in Vegas?
One difference that I used to point out is the weather. From December to February, South Florida is 10 to 15 degrees warmer than Vegas — and that can mean the difference between holding your event indoors or outdoors.
Chris Tompkins is now director of sales andfor the Gallery One Doubletree, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
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