The following content was originally featured on the latest issue of Reunions Workbook
When planning a reunion, negotiating with hotels can be an intimidating and challenging task if you don’t know what to ask for or how to ask for it. By researching properties well in advance, you’ll have a better understanding of how to approach the process, specific items to request and what can be bargained in your contract.
To help out, we have listed seven important tricks from reunion planning experts on how to successfully negotiate with hotels. This will help you determine what you can reasonably ask for, learn throwaway items you can typically get for free, and negotiate certain requests that can be hard to get, even for the most seasoned reunion planner.
Initial Negotiation Steps
Every reunion planner wants to deliver a great experience for his or her guests. Please keep that in mind as you are choosing your property. How the hotel treats you is more than likely how they will treat your guests. Pick a property that is eager to work with you and is responsive to your needs. Also, recognize that the terms of a hotel contract extend beyond just obtaining the best group rate possible, and can include anything from A/V equipment to parking, depending on your reunion needs.
After doing your research, be sure to contact more than one hotel as this will drive up the competition. All hotels have flexibility with their rates and many sales managers will be willing to negotiate with the customer if they can. Talking to two or three hotels is the best way to get the lowest rate. If the hotel really wants your business, some hotels will come down$10-$50 per room per night, based on competition.
If your dates are flexible, you can ask a hotel for the best date they can meet your budget and meeting space requirements. Let the hotel propose dates that are a win-win for the both of you. No hotel will turn down a reasonable offer during slow periods.
Once you’ve chosen your hotel, be very specific with your meeting/hospitality space needs. It is most effective to communicate immediately regarding date, time and setup.
Even though the reunion may be months away, you’ll want to secure your block of rooms as soon as possible. You never know what other events in town will affect hotel occupancy. You do not have to know how many rooms you need right now to get the room block set up. The hotel will provide a cutoff date by which you need to book.
Make sure the hotel is offering you a courtesy block. This means you will not be responsible for paying for unused rooms in the block as long as they are cancelled by a mutually agreed-upon date. Some properties are more reunion-friendly than others. If they are not offering a courtesy block, you do not want to use that hotel.
1. Obtain References
Ask for references from past reunions that the hotel has hosted. Therefore, the property knows you are serious about booking. Hotels tend to negotiate more aggressively with reunions that have history, so share what you have done in the past.
2. Lower Meal Rates
Ask for discounted food and beverage rates. It is reasonable to ask for breakfast to be included. Hotels are open to offering meal deals unless they don’t own the restaurant. Full-service hotels typically do not include breakfast in their price, but ask if they can either provide a discounted voucher or include it in the room rate.
3. Leverage Room Space
Another reasonable request is asking for a banquet room for free. Hotels usually do this by either not charging for the room if a certain amount of food and beverage is consumed or offering a package deal, charging a daily fee that includes the meeting room, food and beverage and a/v technology.
4. Complimentary Rooms
Most hotels will offer an aggressive complimentary room incentive if they really want to win your business. Usually the policy is one complimentary guest room for every 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 rooms picked up, per night. A complimentary hotel suite upgrade for every 10 rooms booked is also the norm.
5. Reception Area
Many hotels will offer complimentary meeting space for a meet-and-greet reception based on how many overnight sleeping rooms the group has booked.
6. Bringing in Own Food and Beverage
Banquet and catering can get expensive for a group. Ask if the hotel will allow the group to bring in its own food/caterer. But most hotels don’t allow it. even for kosher needs or special diets.
7. Big-City Parking
Parking is often requested to be included, but it may be hard to obtain this at central-city hotels if they don’t own the space.
3 Other Items to Consider Asking for:
❏ Hospitality space/area instead of “meeting space” for the registration desk
❏ BBQ space or an area to gather and play games, instead of renting a banquet room
❏ Local attractions are a big deal for reunions and the hotel can offer their concierge services for discounted pricing and free advice
These items are not always offered by hotels, so you have to ask. It’s all part of the negotiation process.
Reunion planning can certainly be a tricky situation when expectations are not expressed. It’s important to keep your budget in mind when it comes to your list of must-haves. If you are down to one item (parking/guest room rate/hospitality space), offer to sign the contract/agreement immediately if they can meet the request.
A digital content and communications specialist, editor, and cat enthusiast, Claudia Flores has a diverse background in public relations working at Hotel Planner and Meetings.com. A native of California and graduate from Liberty University, she is now residing in sunny West Palm Beach, FL. She loves traveling to new exotic places, dabbling in movie trivia, and has a soft spot for animals. Follow @ClaudeFloresPR