When it comes to room-blockfees, the old adage, “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” is most appropriate. But when the attrition fees move from a possibility to a reality, how should organizations proceed? Here are some tips and best practices to put to use:
Before the Meeting: Although room-block attrition fees may be due once the meeting concludes, there are still many things both the group and the hotel can do to avoid such fees. For example, the group can continue to promote attendance at its meeting and work closer toward fulfilling its minimum room block. The group can also request that the hotel extend the cutoff date so that rooms will be available to the attendees at the group rates. On the other side, the hotel can continue to use its best efforts to resell rooms to other organizations and individuals. The group should request a summary from the hotel as to its efforts to attempt to resell unused room nights.
Another option at this point is to begin discussions with the hotel on how it may be able to reduce or eliminate attrition fees-either by paying a reduced amount of attrition before the meeting or by agreeing to rebook another meeting at the hotel. As to paying the fees before the meeting, this approach is a bit of a gamble as the group won't know the actual fees until after the meeting. But some hotels are willing to accept a lower amount in fees before the meeting in exchange for a waiver of fees after the meeting. Any agreement for this approach should be put in writing and reviewed by the group's legal counsel.
In terms of the rebooking option, the group should discuss with the hotel any future meeting needs and whether, if the group were to book such meeting with the hotel, the hotel would be willing to reduce or eliminate attrition fees. If an agreement is reached, it should be reviewed by the group's legal counsel.
During the Meeting: Collect as much information from attendees and from the hotel as possible. From attendees, the group should survey people as they register to find out at which hotel they are staying and for how long. This information will help the group review and audit the room block pickup report after the meeting. From the hotel, the group should find out about its occupancy levels on each of the blocked room nights.
After the Meeting: Request that the hotel provide a summary of attrition fees due to the group along with all corresponding information and documentation. Review this information and compare it to the information collected from attendees (regarding where they stayed) and from the hotel on site during the meeting (regarding resale numbers). Any discrepancies should be noted and the hotel should then prepare a revision.
At that point, the group can either pay the attrition fees or try to negotiate a reduction or waiver of fees in consideration of the group's booking another meeting or meetings at the hotel. If the group opts to negotiate a reduction or waiver in exchange for rebooking another meeting, the group should enter into such discussions with the hotel and any agreement should be put in writing and reviewed by the group's legal counsel.
Since most hotels are independently owned, they are typically unwilling to accept rebookings at other properties under the same hotel management in exchange for a reduction or waiver of attrition fees.
Barbara Dunn is an attorney and partner with Howe & Hutton Ltd, a law firm that specializes in the representation of groups in the meetings, travel, and hospitality industries. She can be contacted at email@example.com.