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Avoid the Venue Budget-Busters

Hotels are currently in the driver’s seat when it comes to meeting negotiations. However, flexibility and asking the right questions will help you book the right property for your event.

In today’s super-heated seller’s market, it pays to book venues as far out as possible. It’s easier than ever to lose a tentative hold on space in this compressed market. And if you miss on your first-choice hotel, you could end up paying higher room rates.

Also remember that the hotel industry is awash with new salespeople hired after the pandemic. If you can’t get the rates, dates, and concessions you need, don’t hesitate to talk to the hotel’s sales director or even the big guns in a regional or national sales office.

Here are a handful of ideas to help you find a venue that will fit your budget.

Creative Venue Cost Cuts
• Ask about all applicable taxes. While easy to overlook, taxes vary in different cities and states and can be significant. Find out the tax rate and which meeting elements are and are not taxable in your host destination, then check again close to your meeting dates to ensure nothing has changed.

• Don’t leave the home office. The most obvious way to avoid meeting room rental costs, AV, décor, etc., is to hold the meeting on site at the office. As long as the meeting is appropriate for the space and equipment on hand, the only item you likely will have to pay for is on-site catering. If you don’t have good meeting space at the office, there might be a co-working space nearby that comes with all the bells and whistles you need.

Tried-and-True Venue Cost Cuts
Be flexible with dates and arrival/departure patterns. As one respondent to a recent MeetingsNet survey about cutting meeting costs said, “We always present as many dates as possible during the RFP process and then ask the hotel to propose best rates for their need dates. We have won with this strategy nearly every time. If you are locked into specific dates, you will pay!”

• Do research to find slow times at the destination. This could be a standard shoulder season, a cold-weather destination in winter, or a hot-weather destination in summer. But also check to see what else could cause rates to climb over your dates, such as a citywide coming to town or a major festival or sporting event.

Know your must-have and nice-to-have amenities before you negotiate. Let the venue know what your deal-breakers are and be willing to walk away if it can’t accommodate those.

• Negotiate multi-year contracts with the same venue or hotel chain. Properties often provide a discount if you book several meetings, or an annual meeting for several years. It also saves staff time researching new properties and destinations.

• Keep the same room sets from day to day to reduce reset fees.

Want more? Find cost savings tips for AV and production, ground transportation, and F&B, here.

• See if you can piggyback on another group’s meeting sets to save on set-up and tear-down costs.

• Ask about staff-room rates and the property’s comp-room policy. You may be able to get comp rooms, comp airport transfers, or room upgrades for VIPs. It can’t hurt to ask.

If you can’t use the venue’s preferred concessions, negotiate. For example, if the VIP suites being offered at the group rate aren’t needed, see if you can get turndown service for your VIPs. (Check out this list of 45 potential concessions.)

Ensure that all attendee spending is tracked and credited toward your event’s overall spending. This is valuable data for future negotiations.

• Try to negotiate having in-house restaurant spend go toward your F&B minimums.

• Ask the venue to waive the resort fee (and any other extra fees) for attendees, especially if attendees won’t be using those services.

• Ask the venue to comp internet access for your attendees and/or your meeting space. That could take thousands off the bottom line.

• Take advantage of the hotel’s linens and in-house décor rather than renting. And if you want a variety of furniture in your meeting and prefunction spaces, ask the hotel to move furniture from other areas of the hotel.

Remember that everything is negotiable, until the contract is signed.

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