The second article discusses attrition rates, cancellation policies and other things to watch for in a hotel contract. The third article discusses amenities that you should negotiate for before signing a hotel contract.
By now, you should have already gotten group hotel rates, done a few site tours, and narrowed your choices down to a few hotels.
Before you decide, you’ll have to negotiate the details of your room block contract
Negotiating may seem like an easy task but that’s far from the truth. Hotel contracts are written to protect their own interests in a legally binding document that needs to be read carefully.
If you do not read and understand the myriad clauses and formulas used to calculate damages, you may end up paying a lot more than you bargained for.
In this article, we aim to show you what you can expect to find in a standard contract. At the end of the article you will find additional links that will provide more details (Ways to save money, things to watch for etc.) on hotel contracts for a family reunion room block.
What Should Be Included In Your Family Reunion Hotel Contract
Details of your room block
Make sure the contract specifies all the sleeping room details broken down by day and room type. It should look like the image below.
The breakdown of rooms should be exactly as you specified in your negotiations. So if you asked for a certain number of rooms that overlook the ocean, then that’s what you should see here.
This is the date that the hotel will hold your rooms till at the negotiated price. Two weeks before the cutoff date, call the hotel to get a “Rooming list” of all the family reunion attendees that have made reservations in your room block. Call or email the ones that are missing from this list and gently remind them of the cutoff date.
The cut-off date can be a very important bargaining tool in your arsenal. If the hotel insists on a deposit for your room block, you can counter by offering to increase the cut-off date in exchange for no deposit at the time of contract. Doing this will increase the amount of days that the hotel has to sell any unused rooms, and you get to block rooms with no money down.
Method of Reservation/Check In, Check out policies
Decide on whether you are going to provide a rooming list to the hotel or will each family member call in their reservations individually? Make sure the method of reservation is listed in the contract. You should be able to make a group reservation by calling the hotel directly (with a group code), or through a link on their website.
Room Rates Per Night
The room rates per night (for each room type) must be specified in the contract. Also, make sure there is a provision in the contract that states that the hotel will match any lower rates found online before the groups check-in.
As a general rule, you should check all online rates before going to see the hotel sales manager. Insist that the hotel needs to honor a lower rate for the entire group if prices were to drop between the time of contracting and the time of the actual family reunion.
Most hotels will require a deposit amount to be put towards the family reunion at the time of contracting. The deposit amount can be from a few hundred dollars to a certain percentage of the entire expected revenue. For smaller family reunions, there should be no requirement for a deposit. For family reunions that are larger (50+ rooms per night), a deposit or down payment of some kind may be unavoidable. Just make sure to negotiate the actual dollar amount or percentage down as much as possible.
This is a clause that states that if a certain percentage of rooms (usually 80%) are not reserved by the group, you will be responsible for them financially. The logic behind this is that the hotel is “holding” these rooms and therefore they will hold you responsible for rooms that they could have sold if it had not been for your room block.
For smaller family reunions, this clause can be waived fairly easily. In fact, if you are planning on a family reunion that requires a total of 100 rooms or less, we would try to get a courtesy room block (this kind of room block requires no deposit and has no attrition clause associated with it).
General Advice When Contracting With A Hotel
1. Read and understand every word of the room block contract. Don’t rush.
2. Asked to clarify any items that the hotel deems “to be determined”, “reasonable”, or “prevailing”. As a general rule, avoid any words that are vague.
3. While it may not seem like it, the hotel sales manager wants to close the deal as badly as you do. They have quotas to meet and a boss to answer to. Even if the hotel offers you a take it or leave it deal, there’s a good chance they don’t mean it.
4. Make sure that you don’t settle on one hotel too early in the process. Negotiate with multiple hotels simultaneously to garner the best deal (And sharpen your negotiating skills.)
5. If you are looking to block more than 50 rooms at night, then consider using two hotels instead of one. Make sure the hotels are near each other and are in different price ranges to accommodate various budgets.
Now that you know what should be in a hotel contract for a family reunion, read part part 2 to learn about attrition rates, and cancellation policies in a hotel contract.