Go Back   FlyerTalk Forums > Group and Event Travel Planning (Forum is Closed for Posting)
Sign in using an external account

 
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old Aug 1, 11, 8:30 pm   #1
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Washington, DC
Programs: US-CP, UA, Marriott Rewards, HHonors, Avis,
Posts: 4,503
How far in advance to book hotel room block?

I'm planning an event in September 2012 and need a block of about 30 rooms; i've not selected the hotel or even the brand yet, but chances are it'll be along the lines of a Hilton or Marriott (not a Courtyard, not a JW, etc). About how far in advance should I start talking to hotels?

I was surprised that the local Embassy Suites quoted me $20/night more than the current rate for the same weekend in 2011 so I'm wondering if i'm just looking too early.

Event will be in DC over Labor Day, not a huge tourist weekend here, and I want to get as much planning done now as I can before I go into my crazy busy season at work (sept-dec I won't get much done outside of work).

Any suggestions on timing? Any tips on negotiating for better rates or amenities like breakfast or wi-Fi? I've obviously never done this before! We don't need meeting space or catering so I can't leverage that towards the rate.
__________________
Some folks STILL haven't gotten their prizes from the Top Flyer contest, and that makes me really sad. What's the holdup, IB?
dcpatti is online now  
Old Aug 1, 11, 9:13 pm   #2
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Chicago, IL, USA
Programs: AA Gold
Posts: 3,896
There are a lot of factors that go into, but the fact that you're not offering them any additional F&B revenue works to your disadvantage. If they offer you a chunk of rooms now, it could be to their disadvantage if another group comes in wanting your rooms & planning to spend a lot on meeting space/food.

I'm surprised that isn't a huge tourist weekend in DC, but it's been a while since I've lived there. You also have to remember that a lot of couples take advantage of 3-day weekends to hold weddings, so that's probably competing against you. You should also check to make sure there aren't any large conventions in town (even within a few days of your event).

It's no secret...you're trying to reduce your risk by locking down as far in advance, but since you don't offer a lot of upside to the hotel, they hope that something better will come along. You could wait until 6 months out, but of course, you then run the risk that better groups will have snapped up space & rates will be higher (or you'll have to settle for a less-than-ideal hotel). On the flip side, if a bigger group hasn't booked space by that point, the hotels may start to get nervous.

You might be better off looking at hotels that have no or little space.

Re. negotiating amenities: Again, it's all about the bottom line for the hotels, plus how desperate they are. If the tourist season sucked and they're anxious for the rooms, they may bend over backward to offer better rates and amenities. But at this point it's unlikely you'll get extra amenities thrown in...unless you're willing to accept a higher room rate.

It would help to know: What kind of group is this? Any activities you were planning to hold offsite that could be moved onsite? Will all of the guests' time be booked or are they likely to be spending money at the hotel bar, restaurants, etc.? Who's paying the room tab? That info might help us give you some negotiating suggestions.
chgoeditor is offline  
Old Aug 1, 11, 9:37 pm   #3
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Washington, DC
Programs: US-CP, UA, Marriott Rewards, HHonors, Avis,
Posts: 4,503
Thanks for the reply!
So the event is a (my ) wedding. We already have a venue and that will be the only organized event, so guests will probably spend some f&b money at the hotel. The bartenders will be happy, I'm sure!

The guests will be paying (other than my future in-laws and maybe the wedding party, we will pay for those). So it's not my money I'm spending. But we want to negotiate the best deal we can for them, especially since about half the guests will be coming from Australia and the UK. We don't want to put an undue burden on folks. Also I'd imagine most of those folks and some of our American travelers will stay for the week rather than the weekend so even more desire to get them the best value.

Will check the convention bookings as suggested; so I'm guessing we'd Want to look for the fuller hotels because they've already made their money and will be more likely to offer a good deal? FWIW I think there would be a tolerance for a slightly higher rate if there were more amenities offered like breakfast or parking included. I'm just not sure how to ask for those things! I could be persuaded into hosting a brunch or a cocktail reception (I'd been thinking about that anyway) to generate some f&b revenue if that is a good negotiating point.
__________________
Some folks STILL haven't gotten their prizes from the Top Flyer contest, and that makes me really sad. What's the holdup, IB?
dcpatti is online now  
Old Aug 1, 11, 9:51 pm   #4
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: LAX
Programs: AA Lifetime Gold
Posts: 2,683
Congrats on the upcoming nuptials. I've been married 35 years, and counting. I'd do it all again.

As for the hotels, my best suggestion to you would be to attack it methodically with a spreadsheet. Make a list of all the acceptable hotels that are close to your wedding and reception venue. Then, just start calling. Ask to speak to the Group Sales manager.

Then, get a quote on what they are willing to do for you. Chances are some hotel will pop out of the crowd by offering a better deal that the rest.
QueenOfCoach is offline  
Old Aug 1, 11, 10:05 pm   #5
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: SFO/RDU
Programs: United Hotcake Preferred
Posts: 520
Hotels tend to value room blocks more than food and bev, contrary to some reports here. By way of example, most meeting promotions specifically exclude catering-only events. Some properties will even tell you that you can't hold food and bev space without a room block in case another party with a room block comes along.

I tend to book catering-only events and am accustomed to a 10%-20% discount over the best available rate. I've seen the best available nearly cut in half when booking a room block. If a property isn't giving you a substantial discount over the best available rate then I would look elsewhere.
Alpha is offline  
Old Aug 2, 11, 3:09 am   #6
Moderator: Manufactured Spending
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 3,290
Well, all I can say is shop around and negotiate hard.

When you send a request for a quote (Marriott allows you to do it online), they will give you something on the higher end. Call, e-mail, or set up a meeting with the group sales person to discuss it. Don't hesitate to ask them, point blank, if they can provide a lower room rate. Ask if they can provide discounts on parking. Make it very clear that cost is important and you are soliciting bids from multiple hotels. It is very much like buying a car. If you aren't good at bargaining, take someone along who is.

Congratulations on the upcoming wedding.
cbn42 is offline  
Old Aug 2, 11, 6:23 am   #7
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 980
Quote:
Originally Posted by cbn42 View Post
Well, all I can say is shop around and negotiate hard.

When you send a request for a quote (Marriott allows you to do it online), they will give you something on the higher end. Call, e-mail, or set up a meeting with the group sales person to discuss it. Don't hesitate to ask them, point blank, if they can provide a lower room rate. Ask if they can provide discounts on parking. Make it very clear that cost is important and you are soliciting bids from multiple hotels. It is very much like buying a car. If you aren't good at bargaining, take someone along who is.

Congratulations on the upcoming wedding.
This is good advice.

The hotel's interest is to make money. Your interest is to save money. They are not going to offer you a low rate with some amenities thrown in unless you ask. Then they'll counter-offer, and so on. If you know specifically what it is you want (rate $x, with y% off of amenity z) then negotiate towards that end.
nba1017 is offline  
Old Aug 2, 11, 6:27 am   #8
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Either at the shooting range or anywhere good beer can be found...
Programs: HH Diamond, Priority Club Platinum
Posts: 22,631
Congrats on the upcoming wedding.

I wouldn't request quotes online, but would call each individual hotel. I've found that often, most hotels will end up calling you to discuss your requirements anyway, so it's a waste of time to input everything into the website.

Make a list of hotels that are acceptable. Factor in distance from the wedding and/or reception, amenities they already provide at no cost, etc. Call each hotel on the list, and ask for the group sales manager. Explain your needs, ask what they can do in regards to rates, amenities, welcome gifts in rooms, and things like that. Be sure you give them your contact information. Ask how long their offer is valid, and let them know that you are contacting multiple locations. If another location has already given you a better deal, don't hesitate to tell them that.

Once you have all of the rates, you'll want to evaluate them. For example, your guests might be willing to pay $5/night more at hotel A rather than hotel B, because hotel A is closer to your venue and offers free wifi and parking.

Other things to consider:
  • Inquire if they will give you a free room for every X number reserved for your block, or if they can give you bonus points based on the number of rooms booked.
  • If you are going to have a brunch the day after the wedding, you might want to inquire about reserving meeting space for that, and having that included in the room rate, or at least receiving a discounted room rate because of the brunch and such.
__________________
The church is near but the road is icy, the bar is far but I will walk carefully”
--Russian Proverb
kipper is offline  
Old Aug 2, 11, 11:28 am   #9
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Washington, DC
Programs: US-CP, UA, Marriott Rewards, HHonors, Avis,
Posts: 4,503
Thanks for all the advice and tips.

I'm comfortable in negotiations once I know what is reasonable and what's unreasonable. I am a little concerned with being that potential customer that wants the moon on a stick and ends up being written off as hopeless before things even get rolling, so I want to be sure I know what is a reasonable request before I walk in the door. I guess there is no hard-and-fast rule of thumb. I'm also a little concerned about starting the process too early; as chgoeditor points out, hotels may feel more generous if tourist season sucked, which may be a factor in my 2012 quotes being higher than the rates posted on the hotel website for the same room, same weekend in 2011: it's been hot as blazes in DC all summer and we haven't gotten the steady stream of tourists that we usually see. So by booking too early, I risk missing out on some deals just because nobody knows what the future holds, and by booking too late I risk missing securing a block entirely.

It doesn't help that my goals are very ambiguous like "get a good value for my guests." I've polled a few folks and all seem happy with "whatever" for price range but I'd feel horrible to think of my friends having to cough up $229 a night for a room. I know most of them will find a way to afford it but that it would be easier if that price came down. And DC is not a cheap hotel city (sending the group to the 'burbs will introduce so much complexity that I just shudder at the thought).

So my criteria/wish list would be:

-Central location reasonably close to Metro (which leaves only about a zillion choices, and would make it far easier for guests to come without having to rent a car but still get around easily for sightseeing and etc)

-Target pre-tax price of $150/night although realistically this can go to $175 or even higher; I don't think the difference of $25-50 a night is going to make anyone not come to our wedding

-Bar and restaurant on premises (I don't think I can budge on this one; folks will be arriving at all times of day/night, with kids and elderly folks in tow, and they shouldn't have to order a pizza or walk 8 blocks to find dinner)

-Complimentary wi-fi for the guests or at a minumum, a comp for *some* of the guests (the Aussies and the Brits won't have cellular data unless they're willing to pay the ungodly International roaming charges)

-Complimentary breakfast for the guests, at least for the day of and day after the wedding (I understand the hotel might not want to give this to everyone, every day, if they are staying a full week) OR a very good price on a brunch the day after the wedding, that I could cover

Now, if the wi-fi and breakfast is free, then I think everyone will see value even if the price goes up a bit, but the closer we get to the $200-and-up range, the more reluctant I get.

Discount on parking is probably not worth negotiating to me as we are going to encourage people not to rent cars; the Brits and Aussies don't need to be driving on the wrong side of the road in what many find to be a confusing city, the American out-of-towners can skip the expense of the rental car; and everyone can take the subway or taxis.

And here is my moon-on-a-stick request, which I completely DO NOT expect to have filled: a shuttle bus for the day of the wedding. None of the downtown DC hotels that I checked have any shuttle services, and I've checked about 25 so far. Shuttle services are only offered in the suburbs. The wedding ceremony is in Old Town Alexandria. I had considered picking a hotel closer to the ceremony but the DC location I think will work better as most folks are already planning on doing some sightseeing; keep them in VA and they have to get an expensive taxi every day or take the Subway (which isn't that close to the wedding venue anyway). So I'd rather keep them in DC where they can easily do the tourist thing, and figure out how to get them, without cars, to the ceremony/reception. I'm already planning on chartering a mini-bus but if I can get a hotel to provide that, it would absolutely influence my decision.

So what on here is reasonable and what should I just forget about? And do you think I am looking too soon?
__________________
Some folks STILL haven't gotten their prizes from the Top Flyer contest, and that makes me really sad. What's the holdup, IB?
dcpatti is online now  
Old Aug 2, 11, 3:59 pm   #10
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Chicago, IL, USA
Programs: AA Gold
Posts: 3,896
Quote:
Originally Posted by dcpatti View Post
Thanks for all the advice and tips.

I'm comfortable in negotiations once I know what is reasonable and what's unreasonable. I am a little concerned with being that potential customer that wants the moon on a stick and ends up being written off as hopeless before things even get rolling, so I want to be sure I know what is a reasonable request before I walk in the door. I guess there is no hard-and-fast rule of thumb. I'm also a little concerned about starting the process too early; as chgoeditor points out, hotels may feel more generous if tourist season sucked, which may be a factor in my 2012 quotes being higher than the rates posted on the hotel website for the same room, same weekend in 2011: it's been hot as blazes in DC all summer and we haven't gotten the steady stream of tourists that we usually see. So by booking too early, I risk missing out on some deals just because nobody knows what the future holds, and by booking too late I risk missing securing a block entirely.

It doesn't help that my goals are very ambiguous like "get a good value for my guests." I've polled a few folks and all seem happy with "whatever" for price range but I'd feel horrible to think of my friends having to cough up $229 a night for a room. I know most of them will find a way to afford it but that it would be easier if that price came down. And DC is not a cheap hotel city (sending the group to the 'burbs will introduce so much complexity that I just shudder at the thought).

So my criteria/wish list would be:

-Central location reasonably close to Metro (which leaves only about a zillion choices, and would make it far easier for guests to come without having to rent a car but still get around easily for sightseeing and etc)

-Target pre-tax price of $150/night although realistically this can go to $175 or even higher; I don't think the difference of $25-50 a night is going to make anyone not come to our wedding

-Bar and restaurant on premises (I don't think I can budge on this one; folks will be arriving at all times of day/night, with kids and elderly folks in tow, and they shouldn't have to order a pizza or walk 8 blocks to find dinner)

-Complimentary wi-fi for the guests or at a minumum, a comp for *some* of the guests (the Aussies and the Brits won't have cellular data unless they're willing to pay the ungodly International roaming charges)

-Complimentary breakfast for the guests, at least for the day of and day after the wedding (I understand the hotel might not want to give this to everyone, every day, if they are staying a full week) OR a very good price on a brunch the day after the wedding, that I could cover

Now, if the wi-fi and breakfast is free, then I think everyone will see value even if the price goes up a bit, but the closer we get to the $200-and-up range, the more reluctant I get.

Discount on parking is probably not worth negotiating to me as we are going to encourage people not to rent cars; the Brits and Aussies don't need to be driving on the wrong side of the road in what many find to be a confusing city, the American out-of-towners can skip the expense of the rental car; and everyone can take the subway or taxis.

And here is my moon-on-a-stick request, which I completely DO NOT expect to have filled: a shuttle bus for the day of the wedding. None of the downtown DC hotels that I checked have any shuttle services, and I've checked about 25 so far. Shuttle services are only offered in the suburbs. The wedding ceremony is in Old Town Alexandria. I had considered picking a hotel closer to the ceremony but the DC location I think will work better as most folks are already planning on doing some sightseeing; keep them in VA and they have to get an expensive taxi every day or take the Subway (which isn't that close to the wedding venue anyway). So I'd rather keep them in DC where they can easily do the tourist thing, and figure out how to get them, without cars, to the ceremony/reception. I'm already planning on chartering a mini-bus but if I can get a hotel to provide that, it would absolutely influence my decision.

So what on here is reasonable and what should I just forget about? And do you think I am looking too soon?
One way to think about the freebies is: What's the cost to the hotel?

For example, if their parking garage is normally on 70% full, there's little cost to them in giving you free parking (which I know you don't need anyway). Depending on how they buy their wifi service, there may be little cost to them to give you free wifi. They do, however, lose some revenue from guests who would have paid out of pocket. Now, if there parking lot were normally 98% full, they might be less likely to give you free parking because it would mean not only losing revenue from your guests, but turning away revenue from others.

Food, on the other hand, will cost them money out of pocket because they have to buy the raw materials. Plus it's costing them lost revenue.

The shuttle request may be the most far-fetched. Presumably if hotels have a "free" shuttle, it only travels a limited route & they don't have shuttles to spare. So you're asking them to spend money on something they probably don't have sitting around, hire extra staff, etc. I'm sure you've looked into the cost of hiring a shuttle, so you have a good idea of how much it cost the hotel. But never say never...if they have a shuttle, it's worth asking.

Re. your question:
Will check the convention bookings as suggested; so I'm guessing we'd Want to look for the fuller hotels because they've already made their money and will be more likely to offer a good deal?
Yes and no. (It's not really a matter of them having already made their money...their goal is 100% capacity, all meeting rooms in use & a lot of meeting-related F&B purchases, plus full restaurants, busy bars, etc.)

If a convention has taken up all of their meeting space but not all of their rooms, the hotel may be more amenable to giving you a room block. But...it depends on the nature of the convention & whether it's using rooms at just one hotel or at a bunch.

Here's why: Imagine you're CEO of XYZ and are having your annual sales meeting at the Hyatt. You have 300 sales people & you decide that they'll all stay at the Hyatt, too. The hotel loves this because there is no guesswork involved in the room block. Give or take a few (new hires, people who get sick & skip the meeting), the group will probably use 95-105% of its room block.

Now imagine that you're organizing a huge trade show/industry conference spread amongst 6 hotels + the convention center with 30,000 attendees. You know they all have different price sensitivities, hotel preferences, etc. That hotel room space is a lot more up in the air, because the hotels can only make educated guesses--based on past experience with the show--how much of their room block will get filled. And a lot of it may be up in the air until just a few weeks prior to the convention.
chgoeditor is offline  
Old Aug 2, 11, 8:34 pm   #11
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 111
You can try using this site
http://findgroupdeals.hotelplanner.com/GroupForm.cfm

I am planning my wedding and i need a block of rooms as well. I figured I have nothing to lose by going this route.

Last edited by nasa808; Aug 2, 11 at 9:57 pm..
nasa808 is offline  
Old Feb 13, 12, 5:08 pm   #12
Moderator: Delta SkyMiles, Luxury Hotels and TravelBuzz!
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Los Angeles
Programs: DL
Posts: 21,546
There is a new Forum,
Group and Event Travel Planning (see Special Interest Travel)
I believe that this thread would be a perfect fit
Obscure2k
TravelBuzz Moderator
obscure2k is offline  
Old Feb 15, 12, 8:31 am   #13
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Australia
Programs: VA Plat, HHDiamond, PCGold, AF Gold
Posts: 915
Next month I have a trip planned to the States that I have organised and have booked 40 rooms.

I booked these rooms 8 months ago and basically contacted every hotel in the area with the following

*Dates
*Room Configs
*What we expected in terms of free Wifi etc
*Any special offers they could offer

Once the quotes started coming in, I looked up reviews of all of them and then started to narrow down.
For example.
One hotel charged the same price is there was 2, 3 or 4 people in one room. The other hotel charged an extra rate per night for the plus 3 and 4. This can add up if children are involved and they are a family.

Also had to keep an eye on taxes and resort fees

Then I played about 3 off against each other to get the lowest rate with the best inclusions. When booking and paying for this many rooms in advance, and being the sole guarantee on the booking..I didn't want to get stuck with the cost.

Look over any contracts carefully and delegate one person to collect payments way in advance. If you change the rooms you have booked..in most cases you will have to pay for them in lost revenue to them.
Jinxy is offline  
Old Feb 17, 12, 2:15 pm   #14
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: McKinney, TX, USA
Programs: AA Plat/2MM; Marriott/LoewsFirst/PC Plat; Hilton Diamond;SPG Gold
Posts: 8,478
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinxy View Post
If you change the rooms you have booked..in most cases you will have to pay for them in lost revenue to them.
Most contracts I have dealt with usually include a 10-15% attrition clause. If you drop less rooms than that (i.e. 4-6 rooms in your case), you won't get charged. But you will still be on the hook for the rest of the rooms.

BTW, what inclusions did you negociate? Bbreakfast or any other meals? I've been hit or miss with that, but a lot of my events are for a large group of teenagers and they can put away the food. So any time I can get a meal comp'd that is usually a good thing.
__________________
"Fortune favors the prepared mind." Louis Pasteur
hhoope01 is online now  
Old Feb 17, 12, 2:29 pm   #15
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Washington, DC
Programs: US-CP, UA, Marriott Rewards, HHonors, Avis,
Posts: 4,503
I ended up signing for 88 room nights over a span of 4 nights, with 35 rooms on the heaviest booking night, at the Embassy Suites that was my first pick.

As breakfast and cocktail hour are already included in the room rate, there weren't a whole lot of other amenities to lobby for--- parking or wifi, or a cut off the catering. Since most of the guests will not have cars to park and will have smartphones with 3G/4G, I decided instead to go after a lower contractual obligation (we do not pay a penalty if we fill 75% based on total room nights, so if we have 5 extra rooms on one night and 5 less another night, it's a wash) and "premium" rooms (bigger room or better view, etc) rather than standard rooms. I don't mean to sound selfish but I'd rather have a lower contract target than have 1/3 of my guests get free wi-fi. It's so easy to get Hilton Gold that I'll just send them all promos and they can get free wi-fi that way. The 75% target is a lot more attractive than the 90% they started at, and the 80% they were really stuck on.

I didn't try too hard to negotiate for HHonors points but I did at least get them to agree to give be base + bonus points on anything that I myself paid for, regardless of who sleeps there. Since this is more than Hilton usually gives--- usually they only credit you on the first two rooms you book--- I'm ok with that, as I've got plenty of bonus points right now and will be very short on base points this year, and the Mr and I are already planning to pay for about 8 rooms across various nights (his parents, my mom, and the out-of-town wedding party plus our own).

My next "negotiation" with the hotel will be over the Manager's Reception; if you're not familiar with the chain, Embassy Suites does basically a free happy hour each night for registered guests, and I want to use that as a meet-and-greet time after a rehearsal luncheon, but I'd like to do a very small bit of catering (some properties only serve chips and I'd like to offer some nibbles). If everyone's getting boozed up for free as part of their room rate then there's no need for us to host another cocktail gathering, and it solves the debate over who's supposed to be invited to the rehearsal dinner: rehearse in the daytime, take the wedding party to lunch, then everyone who's invited to the wedding is welcome to mingle for cocktails. Just not sure how to phrase this to the hotel so that they don't try to sell me event space and a bartender

Hilton has set up a standard Event page with a private link, so guests can book themselves, using their own cards, and get our rate (and be counted in our block). I can go in anytime and see who has booked, how many nights, pass special requests through their reservations to the hotel, and run a report, which I'll do about 30 days before our booking drop-dead date, so I can #1 see if we're within our 75% and #2 chase anyone who hasn't booked yet but is needed to push me over. I think the event planner site is more or less a standard offering among the bigger chains.


FWIW booking early was the right thing in my case--- I had been concerned about pricepoint when comparing to the same weekend in 2011, but there is apparently another group at the ES that weekend as it is showing sold out (I can do a Diamond Force if I want), and the online prices on my second choice hotel is about $60/night more than the ES contract.

Last edited by dcpatti; Feb 17, 12 at 2:36 pm..
dcpatti is online now  
 
 
 

Bookmarks


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 5:55 am.




SEO by vBSEO ©2011, Crawlability, Inc.