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Hotel Contracts 101
By Shanan Atkinson
Executive Director, AACA, DGA 

When I first started at ASG in 2002, I had zero experience with hotel contracts. I was working for a single client whose annual event had 3,000 attendees and 6 hotels with 1,200 rooms sold. Charles had created a pattern so that hotel contracts were for 2 years. This client’s industry had significant repercussions after 9-11 (September 11, 2001). Here are some of the things I have garnered in the last 13 years.

There are many aspects to selecting a property. Each client has their own culture, size and expectations. How do you select a property?  Once you have a city/state/region selected, here are some things to consider for an event at a college or university:

  • Some clients require an association member in the area. One group has the member host 2 days of events at their college/university.
  • Great savings on meeting spaces fees MOST of the time.
  • Less positive is that you have to re-learn the situation (organizational structure) at each school for how to make arrangements.
  • Things at a school location:
    • Approval from the top! A letter from the President of the school is a good start.  While they may or may not be at the school when the event takes places, it is good to ensure the support from the top down.
    • Is class/school in session over the considered dates?
    • Do you need extra security? (If classes are NOT in session there may be small staff.)
    • Are the food services exclusive on campus? (Usually exclusive means very expensive, otherwise it is more reasonable than a hotel.)
    • Buses are often required to get from the hotel to the school, unless it is/school a regional event where most have driven themselves. ($1,000 per day is the estimated amount for one bus with 54-57 passenger capacity.)
    • Where do the buses need to drop off and pick up? (E-mail the map.)
    • Parking is often a challenge – clarifying the options and costs is a key element prior to the event.
    • Maps of the facility are a big help for both a printed program, an app for the event and in pre-event communications.  The school has the maps and it is not usually a big issue to acquire them well in advance.
    • Technology/Smart Classrooms – One big bonus to using a school for an educational session is the obvious availability of the classrooms that are already set up with projectors/smart boards, and seating needed for multiple sessions at one time. Significant cost savings from a hotel setting. One client has sent out a survey prior to the event to gauge interest on the classes offered to help with placement in the larger classrooms to better meet the needs of the group.
    • Wifi on a campus is a challenge. Start early and send reminders/touch points regarding the event to the IT team. Florida requires more robust data on each attendee that will have access to the wifi.
    • Regularly scheduled calls and/or a task list that is referred to often, are keys to keeping things moving at a reasonable pace.  Schools are tricky in that you cannot always plan things too far beyond their current school year’s calendar.

Housing/hotels – Schools usually have a process in place for various groups coming into the space for summer camp or other events.  Finding the right person to coordinate this resource is key.

  • Optimize their current set up for planning or at least take their recommendation for coordinating the housing/dorm rooms.
  • If it is a regional event with few hotel rooms needed, make some suggestions for the hotel properties nearby but avoid booking a hotel room block.  Booking a hotel block comes with liabilities.

Stay tuned from Hotel Contracts 101 – Part 2:  How to Find Available Hotels!