One of the major challenges of corporate events and group travel is contract negotiation. With large groups come large responsibilities. Hotels and resorts want to secure their profits and liabilities with contracts. If you host a group travel event yearly, you might be able to score a mutually beneficial relationship with a hotel or resort. By choosing one location year after year, you build up a reputation as a reliable client. Consider another option, though: a group travel service helps you negotiate thorny contracts on your behalf. Group travel experts have experience and deal with travel contracts all the time. They can use their large network of hotels, resorts, agents, and cruise lines to your advantage. When you work with a corporate event planner, they can look for clauses to renegotiate in your favor.
Some incentive providers, such as Incentive Solutions in Atlanta, GA, can provide travel planning services along with their travel rewards. Because Incentive Solutions offers hotels the promise of repeat business, they have more influence and can often negotiate much more favorable contracts. Here are just a few of the tricky, group travel contract clauses, listed by the Global Business Travel Association, that event planners can help you with:
Cancellation fees and clauses are in place to protect establishments from losing money should you cancel your trip. That’s understandable—hotels and resorts lose quite a bit of money if you cancel a large block of rooms and they don’t have time to rebook them. Beware of other cancellation policies in your contract, however. Travel and event planning services can help you avoid clauses and policies that could disrupt your trip. If the above example should happen when you’re planning a group outing, experienced travel planners know how to quantify what the hotel will pay you if they cancel your event. They also know it’s best to centralize and automate the room reservation process through an online registration system. That way, you can ensure that wait-listed attendees will fill in any reservations that are cancelled, keeping your room block booked and fulfilling your contract commitment. Cancellation clauses and fees are usually unavoidable, but event management experts can help with registration and contract negotiation so that you can reduce potential losses.
Attrition is very closely related to cancellation. Specifically, it’s the term used for the compensation establishments receive for rooms or cabins that are removed from the market when your group reserves them. Attrition clauses, like all things in a group travel contract, are negotiable. Establishments may be open to the idea of removing an attrition clause, especially if they are dealing with a trusted, repeat client such as an incentive travel planner. Even better than no attrition clause, you may be able to include a clause stating there will be no attrition penalty.
If you do pay attrition, an event planner can help you make compromises such as paying it on a cumulative basis, rather than per-night. This way, you can avoid paying full price for any rooms you don’t use or food and beverages you don’t consume.
A force majeure (French term meaning “superior force” or “great force”) clause is meant to absolve both parties (hotel and attendee) of liabilities in the event of an emergency beyond their control. Extreme weather, government regulations, and disease threats are all considered force majeure events. If hotels, resorts, cruise lines, etc. are prevented from fulfilling their duties by force majeure events, they rarely offer a refund provision. Force majeure clauses typically come into play when an event or trip has to be canceled in its entirety. However, an event planner can help you establish policies such as “partial force majeure” in which you can protect yourself from paying extra attrition fees if an event out of your control disrupts—but doesn’t entirely cancel—your trip. For instance, you may be hosting an event in Florida in February, a trip most attendees can make without disruption. A blizzard in the northeastern U.S. may detain attendees from that part of the country, however, forcing you to cancel 25% of your reservations. It may not be sensible to cancel the entire event, so you can rely on a partial force majeure agreement to avoid being penalized with attrition fees.
Indemnification clauses exist to protect one or both parties from financial loss, and to place responsibility of damage or neglect on the party most capable of preventing it. Most contracts include provisions requiring you to indemnify the hotel for any claims or liabilities they incur as a result of negligence or omission by your organization or people associated with it. Travel planners can help you tweak and negotiate this clause so that, for instance, you can specify whether the hotel will be indemnified for negligence or gross negligence. Event planners can help you push back against strict indemnification clauses as, ultimately, you can’t control your attendees’ actions. You may also be able to require the hotel to indemnify your organization against claims asserted against you that result from the hotel’s acts of omissions or negligence.
Cancellation, attrition, force majeure, and indemnification are just a few clauses typical in group travel contracts. While many of the basic clauses themselves are unavoidable, there are still ways to protect yourself and avoid being subjected to biased provisions and preventable fees. Incentive group travel and corporate events should be about learning, networking, getting to know colleagues, and having a great time. An event planner’s expertise can help negotiate a contract that works out best for you, in the end, so you can focus on hosting the best event possible.