Negotiating Hotel Blocks

Getting a reservation at a hotel for an event

Attendees to your conference, convention, and other meetings expect top-notch facilities and a positive experience – and the hotel block you secure is the cornerstone of delivering on expectations for your event, especially if your event will also be held at the hotel. Hotel blocks keep every attendee on an equal playing field and creates consistency for your guests, making booking and transportation easy and hassle-free, while also giving you a base of operations during the event. Hotel negotiations don’t have to be difficult, as long as you know the landscape. Here are some tactics you can take to the bargaining table that will help you negotiate the best hotel block deal for your next event.

Keep time on your side

Planner of major events, like large corporate events and concerts, begin negotiating hotel room blocks years in advance of the event, but even smaller event organizers should begin negotiations as soon as possible. With your hotel as the foundation for your attendees (and maybe even your event), finalizing other details is impossible until this critical component is in place.

An event planner booking a hotel reservation for an event

Hotels are more likely to offer better rates to planners who are working well in advance of their events, rather than those who are cutting it close. Waiting to book your hotel shifts the negotiating leverage to the hotel representatives, since you won’t have as many options. Beginning discussions early on with hotels also gives you more time to negotiate details and work out any wrinkles as your event draws nearer.

Wants and needs

Create a detailed list of exactly what you want and need from your hotel partner at your next event. Think about what you can compromise on and what your non-negotiable items are. This list should serve as your battle plan for what you need and what you need to do to get it.

The purpose of the list is to let you think through everything you need from your hotel venue to make your event a success and allows you to identify hotels that will be the best fit. Your list should include:

  • Estimated number of attendees and relevant demographics (handicap considerations, non-smoking or smoking, etc)
  • Event schedule and timeline
  • Event room needs
  • Audiovisual requirements during events. Even if your hotel doesn’t have all of the necessary equipment, you should confirm that they have the capacity to handle your AV needs and that the onsite equipment is compatible with your event equipment rentals.
  • Food and beverage considerations
  • Transportation needs. Do you need the hotel to provide a shuttle to and from the airport or to off-site locations for your event?

With your game plan in hand, you can narrow down your hotel selections to a handful that fit your needs and then ask for bids from each. Once you have all of the responses in hand, you can begin to compare the offers, including prices and included amenities and accommodations for your event. Here’s a handy list of hotel industry terms to help those unfamiliar with the hospitality industry lingo.

Don’t skip the site visit

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but they can also create expectations that fall flat when you see the space in person. The site visit is a critical component of any hotel negotiation, especially for events like nonprofit fundraisers or meetings that tend to be conducted completely onsite at the hotel. It’s also a great opportunity to make connections with the people you’ll be working with as your event approaches.

Event planner meeting with hotel representative

Take a close look at the property to ensure that everything that you expected or were promised in the bid is present. Measure the size of event rooms, check the acoustics, and sketch a simple diagram or layout of how you plan to set up the space during your event. Take a look at the rooms that will comprise your block and ensure that they are up to your quality standards. Check on the amenities promised by the hotel – is the fitness room really a gym or is it a closet with a treadmill and how does that pool look in real life? If possible, bring along your AV supplier to ensure that all of the onsite equipment is compatible with your rented equipment. Visit area restaurants so that you can make recommendations on your event site and pay attention to public transit options for guests who won’t have access to vehicles. In short, make sure that the venue offers the kind of experience you want your guests to have at your event.

Narrow it down

Once you’ve compared bids and visited potential sites, it’s time to pare down your choices to just one or two hotels. Negotiate details with the reps from each hotel until you’ve settled on a final choice.

Even after you’ve made your selection, don’t rush into signing a contract. As a general rule of thumb, you should never sign the first version of your hotel contract. Review the contract with your planning team and offer a counter-proposal, but never reveal your budget as this can put more negotiating power in the hands of the hotel. This back and forth negotiation styles allows both you and the hotel reps to reach a version of the contract that makes both of you happy. Once you’re comfortable that you have the best deal and all of your needs covered, sign the contract!

Don’t get overwhelmed

Negotiating a hotel block is a long and involved process, so you should be prepared and begin your search as early as possible. Few things in the event world are simple and hotel negotiations may seem particularly overwhelming, but mapping out your event and creating a game plan that includes everything you need to make your event a success help build the foundation of a positive negotiating experience.

Book your hotel reservation a long time in advance

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