Need proof that the seller's market is here with a vengeance? Just look at some of the deals that have been flying off the shelf the first half of this year: Omni waivedfees for meetings booked and held this year, Palace Resorts' No Attrition Policy allows planners to reduce their blocks without penalty for meetings booked by July 1 and held in 2009, and three of the Rosen Hotels in Orlando are offering a similar “Attrition Relief” program for events booked and held this year.
But wait, there's more: Destination DC and the Walter E. Washington Convention Center are offering some pretty hefty discounts to groups booking citywide conventions in the nation's capital. Taking inspiration from President Obama, our 44th Commander in Chief, they're offering everything from a 44 percent off convention center rental fees to a to a 44-minute reception with 44-cent beer and wine; not to mention a $44 rental fee for those who book multiple qualifying meetings within 18 months and a host of sweeteners from 36 area hotels, including no-attrition. Marriott's Meetings Matter program, announced earlier this year, offers a 25 percent allowable attrition rate, along with a comp room per every 30 booked and a 2 percent rebate off the master bill for meetings with at least 100 paid cumulative room nights for meetings booked through March 2010.
These are sweet deals for sure, but note the expiration dates, which only extend as far as first quarter 2010. As association attorney James Goldberg, Goldberg & Associates, Washington, points out in one of our cover stories, our hospitality partners learned their lesson from 9/11, when hotels gave concessions in 2002 to meetings that were held long after business rebounded — and got stuck with what for them were some lousy deals. “This time around they are not doing that,” he says.
And it's probably a good thing that they're not. As Julie Hills, senior director of pharmaceutical sales, Hilton Sales Worldwide, Hinsdale, Ill., pointed out at the Pharmaceutical Meeting Management Forum — sponsored by our sister magazineand the Center for Business Intelligence, and held in Baltimore this spring — these no-cancellation/no-attrition policies are part of a “dangerous pattern.” As rates decline, so do hotel profit levels and, inevitably, service levels, she said. “Hotel chains may have to cut room-service or bell-staff hours, or other items that don't directly impact the guest experience.”
So negotiate while the negotiating is good, but keep in mind that hoteliers also have a business to run, revenue managers to appease, and debts to pay. And while they may be able to make some incredible offers to get you in the door right now, these come at a cost. And you could be the one to end up paying, one way or another.