Marriott International is changing the rules about how commissions are paid to independent meeting planners and other group intermediaries. As of January 1,for meetings convening after June 1 will include a clause that says commissions will be paid only to U.S. and Canadian intermediaries accredited by the International Airlines Travel Agent Network, the International Air Transport Association, or the Airline Reporting Corp.
The new rule does not apply to any meeting contracted before January 1 or to any meeting held before June 1, according to Stacie Canova, director, intermediary partners, Marriott International. Intermediaries maywith Marriott without accreditation, but must have it by the time the meeting takes place in order to qualify for a commission.
The requirement applies to groups convening at both Marriott-owned and franchised properties. The only exception, according to Canova, is Ritz-Carlton hotels and resorts, where she expects the program to start later this year. Intermediaries booking Marriott, JW Marriott, Renaissance, Courtyard, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites, Fairfield Inn, and TownePlace Suites properties will need accreditation in order to be paid a commission.
The catalysts behind the change, Canova says, are an increase in non-bona fide intermediaries and the need to provide better service to the many intermediaries who are legitimate. The company's new automated, centralized commission system will mean quicker commission payments and more detailed reporting delivered with the payment, she says. It will also mean that the company is paying commissions only to organizations that have been vetted as legitimate businesses. “There's been a growth in non-bona fide intermediaries,” Canova says. “We're paying commissions to people who aren't providing services.”
The IATAN Travel Services Intermediary is the designation that would be applied for by U.S.-based meeting intermediaries that don't book air tickets. IATAN defines a TSI as “a business (proprietorship, partnership, or corporation) that is engaged in the sale and/or brokerage of travel and travel-related services such as cruises, tours, hotels, car rental, bus and rail transportation, meeting planning, and site selection. TSIs range from individual home-based businesses to large corporations and are located in the United States or its possessions. TSIs do not hold airline agency appointments or issue airline tickets.”
Beyond a $165 initial fee (with a $65 annual fee after the first year), TSI's standards for accreditation include a minimum investment in the company or a minimum of travel sales, proof of the legal form of the business and of a business bank account, proof of professional liability insurance (with exceptions, says Canova, for site-selection companies that don't sign contracts), letters of recommendation, and more.
Steve Collins, president of Breckenridge, Colo.-based Resort Meeting Source LLC, is among the intermediaries who are not pleased with Marriott's new requirements. “The bottom line,” he says, “is it's a vendor trying to tell their customers how to do business.” He is willing register as an intermediary with Marriott as long as no cost is involved, but getting IATAN involved is a mistake. “Neither Marriott nor I have control over what the costs will be” in the future, he says.
Through the Meetings Community listserv, Collins is urging other meeting intermediaries to contact their Marriott sales reps at properties bidding on business and tell them “that corporate Marriott has basically removed them from consideration for that group.” He hopes that will get noticed. “Up until this, Marriott has been one of the better hotel chains to work with,” he says.