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Let’s Make a Deal

10 Tips for Negotiating Hotel Rates and Contracts


Two colleagues in conversation in meeting
Dan Kenyon/Digital Vision/Getty Images

We all dream of being a skillful dealmaker – that confident person who tends to get everything they want and then some. But, navigating hotel contract talks can be intimidating. Are you asking for too much? Too little? Did you really get a good deal? Here are some guidelines to follow to secure a contract that makes sense for your bottom line.

  1. Be flexible. Don’t lock yourself into specific dates. Be willing to move arrivals and/or departures to lower occupancy days or periods to produce a better rate.

  2. Do your research. If another big event is set to happen during your dates, room inventory will likely be low and rates at a premium.

  3. Think ahead. Start contract talks as far in advance as you can. It’s a planner’s market (for now) and hotels are eager to lock in future business. But, keep a close eye on hotel forecasts. As business levels stabilize and climb so will room rates. Also, make sure you have the flexibility to adjust long-term contracts to account for new attendance/booking trends.

  4. Or live in the moment. Short-term bookings can produce significant savings, too. In this economy, some hotels are offering discounts to planners willing to host events within a tight window of time.

  5. Make it easy. Be clear about your value and what you want in return. Provide a detailed RFP (Request for Proposal) citing what you need (accommodations, meeting space and price range), what you’d like (concessions) and what your timeline is for an answer.

  6. Who are you? Don’t assume hotels know. Provide details on your company and your attendees to show why you (and they) are worth the effort, especially rooming and spending data from previous years.

  7. Consistency counts. Been a loyal client for years? Don’t be afraid to remind hotels about your current (and future) dedication. But, don’t let that devotion keep you from shopping around to make sure you’re getting the best price for your money.

  8. Seek concessions. Hotel won’t budge on rate? Maybe they can help in other ways. Ask for perks like room upgrades, reduced resort fees, free gym or WiFi access or even complimentary receptions. You won’t know what you might get, if you never ask. Be cautious, though, about requesting more than what makes sense for your group’s size and don’t let concession wrangling get in the way of an otherwise good relationship.

  9. Pay attention to the fine print. Attrition clauses, penalty fees, termination or cancellation policies – make sure you go over the small print carefully. Can fines be waived, postponed or negotiated? Can rooms be resold without a penalty?

  10. Be pro-active. Request the right to an audit so you can cross-check the hotel’s guest list against your list of attendees. Can you obtain credits for late registrants, early departures or attendees who book outside the block? It might even be possible to receive credit for convention-goers who are “walked” to other hotels (when guests are sent to other properties due to over-selling by the host hotel) or for no-shows.

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