8 Hotel Secrets to Lower Your Event Cost

After 5 years of working in the event management space, I still have a passion for hotel contracts. Sounds boring and weird, right? Oddly enough, having spent 3 years working for hotels and now being on the customer side of the desk, I love the days I get to review hotel/venue contracts for a customer’s upcoming event. It might be the thrill of finding discrepancies, negotiating concessions or just knowing I am working for my customer’s best interest. Event venues, especially hotels, can try to nickel and dime you for the majority of your event budget. Here are some hotel secrets that will help lower your event cost and that you should keep in mind before you sign. Don’t feel bad about going back to your sales manager with questions or change requests – show them that you won’t be taken advantage of and that your hotel smarts are well above average!

1. Fill need dates.
Need dates are when a hotel has sold out of guest rooms, perhaps for a city-wide event, leaving the event space at the hotel empty. If you are a smaller group with no sleeping room requirements and a pretty flexible schedule, call in multiple hotels in the area and ask a catering sales manager if they have any “Need Dates” that need to be filled — you’ll probably strike a pretty sweet deal.

2. Check your cancellation clauses.
Some have long timelines and outrageous penalties for cancelling even 6 months before your event. If your group is extremely large and you are taking up a large majority of the hotel group room allocation, your cancellation clause is going to be more aggressive. Ask your sales manager if in the event you have to cancel you could apply your cancellation fee to a future event. If the answer is yes, get it in writing!

3. Be aware of your Food and Beverage (F&B) minimum.
You will spend a lot of money on F&B during your event whether small or large – hotel prices are steep to say the least. When you contract with a hotel, you are typically not allowed to bring in outside food so if you plan on feeding your attendees (full attendees = happy attendees) then you will be subject to the hotel’s menus and prices. Contracted F&B minimums do NOT include gratuity (22% in most cases) and state sales tax. Remember that your final bill will be the total amount spent on food, plus gratuity, plus tax — (we call that “plus-plus “in the hotel world). On that note, get the meeting room rental WAIVED! If you have contracted a large block of rooms and are spending a lot on F&B, meeting room rental is essentially straight profit and frequently negotiable.

4. Understand Audio Visual (AV) requirements!
Most hotels have a preferred AV vendor that they recommend or require that you use. Find the clause in your contract about AV providers and make sure you are allowed to bring in your own third party provider without having to pay the hotel a fee. In-house AV providers charge gratuity (22%) while a third-party production company will not.

5. Contract internet up front!
#lotsoftweets #hackerconvention #techconference = lots of bandwidth. Looking back 5 years, hotel internet charges were flat-out unreasonable. Fortunately, hotel internet is becoming more affordable as technology improves and social media needs increase. A lot of groups forget to ask about internet pricing up front and end up blowing their budget once they start negotiating internet pricing with the hotel’s AV vendor. Additionally, in-house AV providers can use internet cost as a leverage point to persuade you to use their equipment and people instead of outsourcing to a more cost effective third party.

6. Attrition- Lower it.
Attrition is the difference between the number of guest sleeping rooms actually sold to your group (picked-up) and the number you agreed to fill (contracted). Make sure that attrition is at 80%. If you are a repeat group who traditionally fills your sleeping block, take that number down to 75% – go ahead, be a rebel.

7. Ask for a resell clause.
Let’s say you don’t meet your attrition – you want to reduce your liability, right? A resell clause can get you out of attrition charges. For example, let’s say you fall short of meeting your contracted sleeping room block, but the hotel ends up at over 90% occupancy: the hotel likely sold your unfilled rooms at a higher rate than your group room rate, so you shouldn’t be liable for those rooms not being filled anymore. Get yourself a resell clause.

8. Leverage sales manager!
Hotel sales managers are just that, SALES MANAGERS! They have quotas, need to meet activity goals, and are happy to take your money. Call them near the end of the month or quarter when you’re more likely to negotiate more concessions, more discounts, better rates and better clauses!

Obviously these are general tips and some may apply to you and some may not, but the overarching theme is that you can dive deep into these contracts and work them in your favor while looking like a hotel rockstar! Comment below some of your hotel secrets that may help others save money on events!

7 responses to “8 Hotel Secrets to Lower Your Event Cost

  1. Hi Katie – Kudos for getting this right. Your prior hotel experience shows. So refreshing to see a vendor offer accurate tips for cost savings beyond the services or expertise their own company provides. I am using your post in a PlanningHelper.com newsletter that will be distributed later today. My audience includes the novice meeting and event planners and your tips reinforce the info published on my website – an educational resource.

    1. Hi Karen – While I have not dealt with many contracts in the UK, I assume these to be about the same. Some terms may differ and there may be different deposit schedules and cancellation clauses, but overall I would negotiate utilizing these rules. I have a friend of a friend who is a GM in Ireland, going to send him this blog link and see if he gets back to me! Great question.

  2. It is a great tip to look for the clause in the contract that talks about AV requirements before booking a meeting room in a hotel. I never thought about how you can save money by hiring a third-party AV provider. I’m sure your advice will be really helpful to anyone looking to save money for their company. If the choice were up to me, I would rather have more of the budget available for for for the people attending the meeting. That’s always nice!

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