Most GSOs receive specials or promotional offers from their hotels on a weekly or monthly basis. Ask, “What promotions are some of your hotels running?” Your GSO is a wealth of knowledge because GSOs have an overview and know where value will be found. For example: Say you need a city that has direct flights from the United States and that also offers a four-star hotel at the budgeted room rate of $175. Seems impossible? There are many destinations that would work — Budapest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, Oslo, Reykjavik, Warsaw, and many more. Most European hotel chains have GSOs in the United States. By using these offices you can save yourself and your team time when it comes toand addendum negotiations. Time is money! /international sales offices (GSO/ISO)
- Be clear about what you need
Make certain you share your budget and guidelines. This will help screen out the properties that are not a match.
- Be flexible
If you have the luxury of having flexible dates, ask for pricing on each set of dates. The property may have a soft period and you will see price discounts accordingly. Just like domestic hotels, pricing internationally is seasonal.
- Avoid 24-hour hold
One question you should always ask yourself is whether you really need 24-hour hold. In most destinations, there is an additional fee applied for 24-hour meeting room rental. There's is a 50/50 chance you will get it anyway, without the expense.
- Ask for the Daily Delegate Package
In Europe, a Daily Delegate Package (day meeting package) is the way to go. Not only are they easier to book than individual meal functions and meeting space, there are definite cost savings when priced out. Keep in mind that 90 percent of the time a full breakfast is included with the room rate. Also, make certain you look at the delegate package in detail to see what is included. And be aware that most countries do not include unlimited beverages and that you most likely won't find Coke or Diet Coke at a morning break.
- Negotiate the deposit schedule
Because there is no way to know what the U.S. dollar exchange rate will do from day to day or month to month, you can always try to negotiate a payment schedule in hopes that the exchange rate will improve. And here's another option: If your group has an office in the country where you're planning a meeting, use that office for deposits or to establish billing privileges.
- Be upfront about commissions
Most international hotels do not honor parity in paying commissions. When reviewing proposals, be certain to note that rates are, by your request, either commissionable or noncommissionable. International commission rates vary from brand to brand. Some hotels offer 7 percent, some 10. It's very important to ask about commissions on food and beverage and on meeting room rental.
- Ask about the comp policy — most international hotels have one
Also, some international hotels offer a site inspection room. If you don't use the site inspection room, ask if it can be credited to the master bill.
- Ask for VAT (value-added tax) to be included in pricing when requesting for quotes
Most hotels will provide you with a breakdown. For a fee, several companies will help get part of the VAT back. If you are planning a large program, look into this before the start of your program.
Carolyn Zusi is the director of sales meetings and incentives, Rezidor SAS Hospitality, Chatham, N.J. She represents five different hotel brands: Radisson SAS, Regent, Cerruti, Park Inn, and Country Inn.