As the sky has become the limit when it comes to hotel amenities—think professional sports team-level gyms and gourmet wine and cheese tasting in the lobby—more properties are adding resort and, now, urban fees to their bills at checkout. But those charges, which are often listed as redeemable for drinks in the bar, dry cleaning, Wi-Fi or faxing, are not set in stone. Some planners are finding that proactively addressing these charges up front can save them, and their guests, from surprises later.
To find out the best way to approach negotiating fees as part of a package, we turned to Walt Galanty, president of AIM Meetings and Events in Alexandria, Virginia. He has been watching the industry change from a sellers’ market to a buyers’ and back again many times in his 40 years in the industry. He had these tips:
“Those fees are 100 percent negotiable,” Galanty says. He often gets the fee to be optional. Attendees who do use the fitness center, want a newspaper and want a food-outlet credit each day can pay the fee and get those benefits, while attendees who don’t want such things can pass. You don’t know if that is an option if you don’t ask.
Go item by item
“Make sure you get maximum value for whatever amount you do pay,” Galanty suggests. “So, if the fee is $30 for the fitness center, basic internet access and a Starbucks coffee for each person, tell them to charge half that amount and they can keep the Starbucks because you already have coffee breaks. The property will almost always take that deal.” This is where knowing your attendees, and what they value, can come in handy.
If you pay for it, use it
If the hotel is going to charge for that coffee or continental breakfast, make sure attendees can conveniently use the amenity they paid for. “If I use a property with a free hot breakfast, I ask them to set up a station near my meeting space,” he says, even if he has to pay an additional fee per-person. “$13 a head for set-up is better than paying $30 for a full breakfast elsewhere.” Sometimes getting a good deal just requires doing the math.
Rob Carey is a business journalist and principal of Meetings & Hospitality Insight, a content marketing firm for the group-business market.