If you’re not a detail oriented person, then you should have someone else read the contract over to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
While a hotel can put anything in fine print, the most common clauses, policies, penalties etc. are listed below along with our take on what to watch for.
Say No To The Attrition Clause
This is a no-no for a family reunion.
Attrition is the percentage of rooms that have to be reserved in your room block without any penalties (A typical attrition rate is 80% and is negotiable). For instance, if you block 50 rooms for a family reunion and the attrition is 80%, then you have to reserve at least 40 rooms. If your family comes up short, then you have to make up the difference in the form of fees.
If you can’t avoid the attrition clause, then make sure to ask that the compensation be based on lost profits and not lost revenue.
For us, an attrition clause for a family reunion is a deal breaker. It’s better to reserve rooms at a hotel that offers a courtesy room block (This is the kind of room block that requires no attrition clauses, and no deposit.)
Cancellation Clauses Trigger Penalties
There are two types of cancellation clauses in a hotel block contract. The first kind refers to individual hotel room reservations and the cancellation policy is usually a standard 24 hours before the day of arrival
The other kind of cancellation policy refers to the group as a whole. Most hotels will require more than six months notice to cancel the group without the loss of deposit. Before signing a contract make sure you understand what the group cancellation policy is and how much of the deposit you may lose if you decide to cancel the family reunion.
Cut-Off Dates Are Also Negotiable
Many hotels will give a cut off date of 30 days before releasing your room block. This means that 30 days before the family reunion, any rooms not reserved will be placed back into general inventory to be re-sold.
Ask the hotel if they would be willing to lower the group rate or if they will provide a better comp ratio if you were willing to increase the cut off date to 60 days. Also, ask the hotel sales manager if they will honor the group rate even after the cut off (this is fairly common).
If the hotel happens to oversell your rooms, they will “walk” your guests to a hotel of similar quality (at hotel expense). Include in the contract that the hotel will pay for guest transportation, and phone calls.
Additionally, the hotel should provide the first available room the following day. If you don’t think this actually happens, then you to speak to a meeting planner who will tell you otherwise.
An alternative to this is to insist on a “No walk” clause in the contract that specifies that the hotel is not allowed to walk anyone from your group.
Shipping and Receiving
Many hotels will charge you a cribbage fee. This is the fee assessed for any packages that they have to handle on your behalf. If you expect to ship more than a few boxes to the hotel, then make sure to add language in the contract that states that there can’t be any cribbage fees.
Popular fees at hotels are resort fee, clean up fee, bellman tip, concierge services, safe fee, and a host of others. Before signing the room block contract, make sure you understand the fees that may be assessed on the group as a whole and individually. If the hotel is assessing fees, then try to negotiate them out.
While no one actually enjoys reading the fine print (Not even lawyers), you have to make sure to read it carefully when going over a room block contract for a family reunion. If there are parts that you do not understand, do not hesitate to talk to the hotel sales manager or a lawyer for clarification.
We hope the advice above has armed you with enough confidence to be able to talk knowledgeably with hotel sales managers.
This article is part two of a three part series on hotel contracting for a family reunion.