This article was originally published in Association Trends.
Every association holds meetings, whether a small board meeting or a convention for thousands. Association executives responsible for meeting planning should be aware of some of the latest trends in negotiating hotel and convention contracts to protect their associations.
Airlines aren't the only ones who are overbooking. To guard against room vacancies, some hotels have begun to overbook. You can protect your meeting attendees from being walked (sent to another hotel) by including strict terms in your contract that your meeting attendees are to be accommodated ahead of any other hotel guests and if they are walked, that the hotel will pay for their accommodations at another hotel, provide free transportation between the two hotels and your meeting site, and provide them with the first available rooms should they want to move back.
Parasites come in all forms including companies that try to avoid paying exhibit fees for convention floor space by renting a suite in a conference hotel and making their location known to your meeting attendees. To avoid this, include in your hotel contract that the booking of all hospitality suites and meeting rooms on your meeting dates are to be cleared with your association first.
Force majeure clauses were broadened after 9/11 but some hotels are retrenching and only allow the association to cancel if the hotel is unable to provide services. This does not include other traditional force majeure events such as natural disasters, transportation failures, or strikes or the more modern termination due to a terrorist attack. Associations should develop their own force majeure clause that covers all possible reasons for their meeting to be canceled including the inability of meeting attendees to travel to the meeting site. Don't forget to arrange for event cancellation insurance. This is some of the least expensive but most important insurance coverage that your association can have in place.
Green meetings are a growing trend. Most meetings contracts do not address recycling by meeting participants or sites, use of biodegradable materials for food service, local sourcing of food and beverage items or other “green” meeting initiatives but you can add these to your contract.
To put your association ahead of the game, develop a standard hotel and convention center contract addendum that includes all of the terms you usually try to negotiate to your association's favor. Then use it every time you negotiate a meetings contract.