The same principles used with all meeting vendors apply when egotiating and
formatting hotel contracts.
Here are sevens things to
learn before getting started.
What is a contract?
❚ According to APEX, the Accepted Practices
Exchange initiative of the Convention Industry Council, “A contract is an agreement
between two or more persons (or entities)
that creates an obligation to do or not to do
a particular thing. A contract spells out the
rights and duties of the contracting parties.
A well-written contract should be a clear
roadmap of the parties’ expectations and
❚ Refer to the APEX Contracts Accepted
Practices ( www.conventionindustry.org/
files/APEX/APEX_contracts.pdf ) to learn
more about terminology.
❚ What I learned from attorney Jeff King, who
for years was the CIC’s chief legal counsel
and also defended me and a client in a
lawsuit, holds true today: “It doesn’t matter if
you’re right or wrong, you can still be sued.”
The more you know the better you understand what you are recommending to be
signed, and if necessary, can later defend.
Why do we need written contracts?
❚ Contracts confirm the mutually
Are contract terms always
agreed to arrangements and provide a
foundation for a relationship and an event.
❚ Although lawyers tell me that verbal
agreements can stand, having all infor-
mation in writing, signed by the parties to
the contract, allows anyone to execute the
❚ “It depends,” to quote any number of
industry attorneys. To reach terms that
include what the parties need, write a thorough request for proposal (RFP) with all
your meeting requirements and “wants.”
❚ Ask hotels to propose RFP responses that
answer all your needs specifically.
❚ Don’t sign the proposal (the first offer
from a hotel). Negotiate the terms and
the verbiage so that the parties are in
How do I include in the contract all
the elements needed?
❚ Ask questions, clarify terms and put everything in writing.
❚ If you’re asked to talk with the hotel’s legal
counsel, welcome the opportunity to gain
clarification. Be ready with your knowledge
of the parties’ needs and legal terminology.
Who are the parties to the contract?
❚ The owner/s of the hotel dba (“doing business as”) the hotel name, which is often the
brand name and the meeting sponsor.
How do I know if everything I need
❚ E-mail me ( firstname.lastname@example.org) for a con-
When and what should I sign?
tract negotiation checklist that has many
elements that should be included. Don’t
go for the “shorter is better” idea! If more is
needed to ensure understanding, add it.
❚ Hire a hospitality industry attorney who
works on the group side. The Academy of
Hospitality Industry Attorneys is a good
starting point ( http://ahiattorneys.org/
❚ There is lack of specificity in many contracts that planners sign or recommend be
signed in the interest of time. Those signatures can be costly when questions aren’t
asked and clarification is missing.
❚ Don’t rush to sign, especially at year or
quarter end. Hotels may suggest that you’ll
lose the space or the negotiated items if a
contract isn’t signed “right now.” The terms
should be acceptable to the parties before
signature. After signature, it’s tougher to
change any language or conditions, although it’s sometimes necessary based on
❚ Though you can sign “as agent for,” I recommend someone with a greater responsibility review and sign. As King noted and
I’ve experienced, even if you don’t sign,
you may still be sued, even after you leave
the employ of the organization. Limit your
liability as best you can.
For a deeper understanding of aspects to
consider for hotel contracts, check out my
recent webinar, “Site Selection: Finding
the Right Fit,” ( www.meetingstoday.com/
webinars) and corresponding article (www.
Additionally, the UNCC Meetings and
Events Certificate Program (http://con-
tinuinged.uncc.edu/certificates) on risk man-
agement includes a portion on contracts.
By Joan Eisenstodt
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