Lodging: Getting the Most for Your Group on the Road
31 Dec, 2008By: Michele Renahan
When I started in the hotel business 20+ years ago, I had recently graduated from college and couldn't believe someone was out there "selling" hotel rooms. I thought you went on vacation, got tired of driving and eventually found a hotel that suited your needs and your budget. I never even thought about people reserving blocks of rooms for their event or their team.
If you travel with a team or with a group for special events, there are a few things to consider.
Is this a city-wide event?
If it is, hotel rates will be higher than average because the entire city/town will be busy with the group. In this case, you'll want to reserve your rooms early and make sure you have plenty of rooms for your entire group. It is easier to release rooms that you don't need than to reserve more rooms later and closer to the event.
Is the event or tournament limited to only a few teams traveling?
If this is the case, you have more negotiating power with the hotels. Shop on-line to get an idea of hotel choices and rates; there are a couple of great websites to check out. One is www.kayak.com - this site will pull all the hotel rates for an area so you can see the hotels and the rates they are offering. Another site is www.tripadvisor.com - this one will assist you with traveler's reviews. Typically, travelers are very honest and will give you insight on safety, convenience, friendliness of the staff and hotel amenities.
After your preliminary research, you should be able to narrow your search down to two or three hotels in which you are most interested. Don't book your group's rooms online. If you deal directly with the hotel, you can usually negotiate more benefits. In many instances they will want you to sign a group of rooms agreement to reserve your block of rooms.
How many rooms will you need?
In most instances a group block of rooms consists of nine or more rooms. In some cases, five rooms are considered a group.
These are always helpful with a team on a budget. Be sure to negotiate this when you are negotiating a rate. A hotel may offer you a couple of different options and typically include one of the following:
One "comp" room per 10 room-nights consumed. This would indicate that if your group reserves five rooms for two nights (total of 10 room-nights),your group would be credited with one night's stay for one room.
One "comp" room for a coach. For a small group, this is a great deal. As long as your group uses the minimum number of rooms, you will receive one complimentary room for each night your group stays. In other words, book and use five rooms for two nights(total of 10 room-nights), your group would receive credit for one room each night of your stay.
One "comp" room per night. If there is no "coach," this is a great deal because if the group uses less than anticipated rooms, you will still be credited for one room each night your group is at the hotel.
Types of Rooms?
Make sure you specify how many people will be in each room and how many beds will be needed for each room (i.e., double/double equals two double beds in each room; a single equals either one queen bed or one king bed). You may need rooms with a microwave and refrigerator, rooms that have a pullout sofa sleeper, or rooms that can accommodate a roll-away bed (extra charges may apply).
How are you paying?
Will the rooms be paid for with one check? Or will each room be paid for individually? If you are paying with an organization's check, find out from the hotel how far in advance you need to send in payment. With a check, the hotel will typically require pre-payment to allow time for the check to clear the bank. If each room is to be paid individually, the hotel will either want a rooming list with the guests' credit card information or they can arrange for each person to call in with their room request and credit card billing information. The guests will need to mention the group name when making their reservation.
Be aware of any "attrition" stipulations. In a group contract this contractually binds you to use typically 90 percent of the number of rooms you contracted. So if you contract for 10 rooms and you only use eight, you are financially responsible for that one room that no one used. Usually, only large, full-service hotels have this in their contracts. It is unfortunate, but I have had a group not pick up their room block due to weather conditions, or they were eliminated from the tournament early, but they had to pay because this stipulation was in their contract.
It is an exciting time when you are participating in a tournament and you want to make the trip memorable - not only for winning the trophy, but also for a great stay at a great hotel. Keep in mind a few other things that could make your stay either mediocre or great:
What is there to do in the area? Are there restaurants within walking distance? Is there shopping close by? Does the hotel have special agreements with any retailers or restaurants?
How late does the pool stay open? Will the hotel let you order pizza or other food items and serve them by the pool? (This is a great option for teams on a budget.)
Is there a meeting room at the hotel that the team can use free of charge? (This is a great idea for team meetings or meal functions.)
Does the hotel have cable/pay movies in the rooms that can be turned off in specific rooms? (You don't want any surprises of money spent on in-room-movies in which you weren't prepared.)
Now that you are armed with some negotiating skills, go make the best deal possible for your team!
Room block - the total number of rooms reserved for an event
Cut-off date - the deadline to have specific names reserved with the rooms
Rooming list - a list of the people assigned to each room
Comp room policy - the number of rooms per night the hotel will give you free-of-charge based on the number of rooms reserved
Guarantee policy - how you guarantee payment of the rooms reserved for you. This can be by the individuals occupying the room or it can be to a master account.
Master account - when all the rooms and taxes will be billed to, and paid, by one person
Individual guarantee– each person will pay for their own room