Negotiating a Room Block Review Clause

You’ve made a commitment to book a block of rooms.  You think you’ve got the right number reserved, or is it too many?  How is one to know for sure when you are booking a hotel three years or more in advance?

Guarantee yourself some flexibility during the planning process by including a schedule of room block review dates in your contract.

With this contract clause, adjustments to your original room block can be made without charge. The final review date closest to the meeting is the date when the final room block is determined, and attrition will be based on this final room block. Of course, the further out the time frame, the more difficult it is to anticipate pickup.  For this reason, it’s most useful if the final date is reasonably close to the meeting check-in date (six months out is a reasonable time frame).

A 20% reduction one year out will give the hotel ample time to release those rooms back into general inventory for sale.  Another 10% six months out allows for your assessment of what the industry trends are, and other factors that may have come into play that drive attendance up or down.

The function room assignments listed in contracts are most often only tentative. Your program may change somewhat after the contract is signed and the hotel will want to continue to sell additional group business, which will also require meeting space.  Hotels will often commit to space initially but you’ll often see contracts that will not assign the name of the meeting space until closer to the meeting date.  The hotel may reserve the right to reassign function rooms to accommodate both your group and all other groups or parties using the hotel meeting space during your meeting dates.

What is not reasonable is when there are no function room criteria to guide the hotel on how function room changes may be made. Room size, location, decor, and other issues important to the success of the meeting should be addressed. The risk of ending up with unsuitable rooms is especially prevalent if the site inspection and contract negotiation takes place a year or more before the meeting. Staff turnover may mean these details don’t get communicated if they’re not in the contract.

There may be other issues not specified in the contract that could result in trouble. For instance:

You may have selected a room for your general session that has four hard walls (as opposed to sections of a ballroom divided by air walls) because of sensitivity to noise. The final room assignment may be just as large but may bleed sound to the other side of the air wall and thus may compromise the impact of your speaker content.

Often meetings require breakout rooms with attendees periodically flowing from one to another. In order to be effective, the rooms must be in proximity to one another so there is no confusion or inconvenience.  Without specifying in the contract, the hotel may bump one of your breakouts to the 15th floor that may not be accessible without an access key.

To address the issue of the adequacy of the size of final function rooms, the parties can agree that function room assignments in the contract are final, rather than tentative, and that requests for change must require both hotel and group approval. If this language is agreed upon, the group should be as flexible as possible to allow the hotel to sell its other meeting space. Alternatively, the group can specify that final function rooms assigned three months out must be assigned based on size and other factors specified in the contract. The group can specify minimum square footage for each type of function and room or refer to a neutral calculator for minimum room size such as the MPI Comfort Calculator.

Last, but certainly not least, the final sentence of the clause can basically negate the rest of the paragraph. Room assignments are not “final” if the hotel reserves the right to reassign function rooms. That last sentence should be stricken or negotiated to specify that the hotel may make such reassignments only through a certain date, perhaps three months out in this case.

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