After the blockbuster news January 24 that Marriott plans to cut commissions for group intermediaries from 10 percent to 7 percent for business at properties in the U.S. and Canada, David Bruce, managing partner at CMP Meeting Services, launched LinkedIn and Facebook groups called Meeting Planners Unite. He created the groups to facilitate sharing and, “to show the hospitality industry the power of the independent planner,” but in the quick two weeks since Marriott’s announcement, Bruce’s vision has grown.
Meeting Planners Unite now has about 750 social media followers signed on and Bruce just launched a new website, meetingplannersunite.org, where he hopes to migrate the conversations and eventually incorporate as an association for independent meeting planners. The goals of the organization, he said, will be to “deal with the Marriott issue head on” and also provide information and resources on topics such as taxes and insurance that will help third parties run their businesses.
Bruce believes that the buying power of Meeting Planners Unite members could be a formidable block, and he plans to bring that message to the hotel giant. “I’m meeting with Marriott executives on [February] 23 to discuss our position and also listen to theirs. I think we need to work together to come up with a solution that’s not only beneficial to our organization but also to Marriott.
“Our main goal is to make our point clear that many small businesses are going to be affected by this at a time when Marriott is showing the best growth in its history, and at a time when the federal government has given it a 15 percent savings in their tax structure,” he said. At the meeting Bruce wants to listen to Marriott’s reasoning behind the commission change and also, “show them that although we are many small businesses, together we drive a very large amount of business to Marriott.” Business that, he says, could “very well not go to Marriott going forward should we not be able to find an agreement that is suitable to both Marriott and ourselves.”
What would that agreement look like? “Hopefully we’ll be able to move back to the 10 percent range for those people who are part of this organization,” Bruce said. He compared the buying power of the small independents that are rallying under Meeting Planners Unite to some of the larger sourcing companies like ConferenceDirect, HelmsBriscoe, and HPN, which reportedly will continue to earn larger commissions from Marriott after March 31 when most intermediaries will drop to 7 percent.
“The industry needs to work together. It’s not us versus them—at least it shouldn’t be. We’re all in the same industry, and if we’re not working together, neither side benefits. That’s what the meeting coming up on the 23rd is about. We want to show our benefit to them and hopefully they can show what their benefit is to us.”
The SPIN Petition
In other news connected with Marriott’s commission drop, the Senior Planners Industry Network has more than 400 signatures on its petition demanding equal commissions from Marriott for all intermediaries, according to SPIN executive director Tracey B. Smith, CMP, CMM. Smith said more than 85 percent of the signatures are from women and about 60 percent own their own business.
“Many of our members who run their own business have used commissions as a way to offset fees they would normally charge to their clients for the work they do,” Smith said. “This difference in revenue will have to be passed along to the client; however, some clients will not be able to afford a hike that high. So, the ripple effect is the planner may lose business and/or the meeting owner may decide not to have their meeting. Either way, it’s not good for the economy.”