Coronavirus and Meetings
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Updated Aug. 3, 2020.
Planners hoping to book meetings for 2020 are likely to find favorable contract terms, as a growing number of hotel companies and destinations are offering promotions with flexibility.
The latest to roll out a major promotion is Hilton, with its EventReady Flexible Offer. The deal, which applies to meetings booked between now through Dec. 31, and held by May 31, 2021, offers relaxed cancellation terms through the Hilton Express Meeting Agreement. Designed to foster the short-term booking of events, the contract allows those with a budget of up to $50,000 to cancel without penalty up to eight days in advance of arrival.
Planners booking with Hilton can be assured that the protocols of the Hilton EventReady with CleanStay program will be in place. Participating properties are also offering double Hilton Honors Event Planner Points on meetings booked under the terms of the offer.
To get more business on their books, participating properties from the InterContinental Hotels Group are offering a zero attrition, zero cancellation penalty offer, as well as up to five percent off the master bill. IHG's Meet with Confidence offer pertains to groups with 10 to 50 rooms on peak, and applies to meetings booked by Aug. 31 and executed by Dec. 31, 2020. The offer must be mentioned at the time of the request for proposal, be that directly on the IHG website, through an account manager or via an electronic sourcing platform.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group's Booking with Confidence group offer, valid until Jan. 31, 2021, waives any cancellation fees should government and travel guidelines present cause to cancel the event. The offer applies to groups with a minimum of 10 rooms and two nights or more, and requires that cancellation notice be given at least 30 days in advance of the meeting date. Groups with a prebooked meeting space receive a complimentary Mindful Meeting Wellness Break, which includes a 30-minute guided wellness activity such as meditation or yoga.
In Pittsburgh, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and major meetings hotels are offering incentives for meetings booked to occur in 2020. Hotels won't levy attrition fees and the convention center won't charge additional rental fees to accommodate extra space requirements due to recommended social-distancing guidelines. The facility will waive any food-and-beverage minimums as well.
"Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have touted Pittsburgh’s strength when our community works together," VisitPittsburgh president and CEO Jerad Bachar said. "Our job is to find ways to facilitate meetings and events safely and within global health standards. Hopefully, these offers give meeting planners peace of mind as they progress with plans for 2020."
Participating hotels include:
In Indianapolis, Visit Indy has partnered with 13 downtown convention hotels to offer a zero-attrition deal for the remainder of this year. The deal applies for new meetings business booked in 2020, for 2020, and includes the following hotels:
"There is obviously great uncertainty about how to conduct events this year and our city, convention center and hotel partners wanted to help mitigate financial risks for our customers," said Leonard Hoops, president and CEO of Visit Indy. "Providing zero attrition for room blocks helps event professionals book with some peace of mind."
Lowering Risk and Raising Commission
Global hospitality company Benchmark has loosened restrictions and sweetened the commission rate for independent planners as well, in a program that will extend through March 2021. Dubbed the Meeting Accelerator Program, the initiative addresses both monetary and safety concerns around meetings.
The program's Zero Risk Clause stipulates there will be zero attrition or cancellation fees applied to contracted room and F&B revenue, on new meetings scheduled through March 31, 2021 — until 60 days in advance of the event. A full, one-time rebooking credit will granted for any new meeting scheduled between April 1, 2021 and Dec. 31, 2021, as long as the rebooked group is of equal or greater contracted revenue and takes place by Dec. 31, 2021.
For independent planners, Benchmark is bumping up commissions from 10 percent to 12 percent, with 7 percent distributed immediately upon booking. Benchmark has also made new health and safety protocols part of the Meeting Accelerator Program, committing to safe social distance spacing, sanitizer stations, increased air purification and aroma therapies and staggered breaks to create a safe meeting environment. The company also promises safe and healthy F&B, activity breaks and team-building exercises.
"We are aggressively addressing both the monetary concerns and the need to reassure our partners that it is safe and prudent to return to the conference room," said Benchmark CSO Eric Gavin. "We have built this program to demonstrate our commitment to and support of these relationships as we work to meet the challenges of operating in a vastly changed environment."