What to watch For

Contracts don’t sound exciting. Lots of legal language, tons of details—essentially, a heavy lift. But if you look at them another way, event contracts are a dynamic landscape that can either serve as a solid foundation for your event, or a swampy marsh full of lurking danger!

Even if that more adventurous perspective doesn’t make you any happier about them, they’re a necessary part of the meetings and events industry. That means, just like any traveler, you need to know the lay of the land so you can plan for the best and avoid the worst.

Contracts in 2024

Here are the major features we’re expecting in agreements this year:

Higher Costs: Even though the pandemic supply chain issues are mostly a thing of the past, both inflation and natural price increases are playing a role in 2024 contracts.

That could show up in higher prices for food and beverage (F&B) which you may expect, or in costs that are somewhat disguised. For example, a “resort fee” may be called a “destination fee” or “service administration.”  If you don’t already, make sure you specify in a contract clause that any additional charges and fees need to be disclosed and agreed upon in writing to avoid any surprises.

Read More: Risk Management: Events are Risky Business

Extra costs could also show up indirectly in hotels showing less flexibility for what can be charged to the bill post-program, or just overall less “wiggle room” because the venues are trying to cover their own higher costs.

Another reflection of the higher costs resorts and meeting facilities are facing is showing in the amount of the deposit. Be prepared to pay more in upfront deposits than you may have in the past.

Challenging Staffing: The hospitality industry continues to struggle to attract, retain and train talented staff in sufficient quantities to meet demand. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Front Desk Feedback survey in May 2023, more than 80% of hotels are experiencing staffing shortages. While overall unemployment numbers are low across all industries, employment levels in the hospitality industry remain substantially lower than the pre-pandemic benchmarks in February 2020.

The obvious effect could be lower levels of service. Even if the venue is fully staffed, how many of them are fully trained? Are staff rotating roles? While that’s great for all-purpose problem-solvers, it could mean you’ll be working with staff who don’t have a depth of expertise.

Read More: Hospitality and Humanity Meet to Solve Hotel Staffing Crisis

How to Create a Win-Win-Win

Here are a few ways to create and manage events that go beyond expectations for everyone.

  • Be an early bird. Try to get your group to register early so you can lock in more favorable pricing. This isn’t a new idea, but it’s one that can especially be effective in 2024 to secure better pricing and lock in more amenities (like specific levels of service or rooms).
  • Keep an open mind. When it comes to F&B, try to get agreement on pricing sooner than later. That might mean you can’t get too specific with the menu. The upside of building in flexibility (think buffet instead of plated service) is that it can help with budget and staffing issues. Working with a hotel chef is the best way to ensure you are maximizing your budget without skimping on quality.
  • Don’t skip the site visit. Knowing the staffing challenges, a site visit is a great way to get a feel for staff in action. Are they comfortable in their roles? Are there long lines anywhere? Are the outlets open and staffed? Do guests seem happy? It’s just one data point, but it’s an important one before signing anything.

While the 2024 buzz may be all about artificial intelligence and experience-first events, behind the buzz sits a solid contract. By taking a little bit of extra time, and building in some flexibility, even the most daunting contract can turn into a dynamic event.

woman in bright green long sleeve shirt smilingNicole McCoy, head of global sourcing with Bishop-McCann and her team accommodate everything from a space-intensive, 4,000-person national sales meeting to a high-touch incentive program for 10 couples.