Having to contend with a recession and a public that is too afraid to travel, hotel chains have responded by instituting many meeting-friendly services to entice meeting business back. Among the new services being offered:

  • Hyatt Hotels and Resorts just released a shorter, simpler contract for meetings, which, says company spokesman Rafal Karkis, “will make it easier for the hotel and the planner to reach agreement, and will simplify the language through better verbiage.”

  • Hyatt also has created a billing system to simplify and standardize the master account billing process. The system includes a menu of ways to sort the bill that the planner can pre-select. “We can sort room folios five different ways, and point-of-sales checks can be sorted by the posting date or by the check number,” says Bruce Small, director of sales information systems. “Wherever they go, the bill will look the same, feel the same, reconcile the same, be presented in the same way, and have the backup created in the same way — all summarized in a laser-printed, bound book.”

  • Marriott International has eliminated fees for early departure and toll-free phone calls.

  • Starwood Hotels & Resorts has left it up to individual hotels to negotiate rates with meeting planners as the hotels see fit. The differences of the market across the country are behind the decision. Explains Dave Scypinski, senior vice president of industry relations with Starwood, “We have some cities that are doing well, some that are distressed, and others that are somewhere in-between. To put a corporatewide program into place that addresses every hotel we have in the portfolio … in some cases would be making us our own worst enemy.”