Friday, July 2, 2010

Protect Your Customers With A “Walk Clause” In Your Hotel Contract!

There’s nothing quite like arriving at a hotel, for your dream vacation, and then the dreaded scenario occurs… you are told by the front desk attendant the hotel is “sold out” and there is no room available for you. You ask yourself (and the hotel) how could this be, I have a confirmed reservation?  All you get is an apology and a shrug, with a promise by the hotel to help you find an alternative place to stay.

Has this ever happened to you?  Its not a whole lot of fun, and can actually be quite stressful, especially after a tough day of travel.  For event professionals, who depend on hotel service to make their customers (conference attendees) feel welcome, at a conference, this is a nightmare come true!

Leigh Murdock wrote a blog post last week on CVENT’s blog, which did a solid job of describing what a hotel “walk” is.  In short, when a hotel overbooks their rooms ( similar to airlines overselling seats on a flight) they do so in anticipation of some cancellations and no shows.  Sometimes, this results in a situation where a hotel will have to relocate a confirmed guest(s) elsewhere.  This is called a “walk.”

In the context of a conference it is crucially important for organizations to address this issue head-on during the contracting phase of the event. To not do so, leaves your attendees in a vulnerable position, as it will then be up to the hotel to decide how to handle the situation, should a “walk” occur.

Protect Your Attendees With A “Walk Clause”

At my company, Experient, I am responsible for overseeing the contracting process for many of my clients, and I always recommend inclusion of a “Dishonored Reservation” clause in their hotel contracts.  I believe the five (5) following issues should be addressed in this important contract codicil.

Issue #1:  Complimentary Alternative Accommodations — For each night the hotel is not able to provide a room to a group attendee holding an accepted and/or confirmed reservation, they must provide a complimentary comparable hotel room elsewhere.

Issue #2:  Complimentary Transportation — Hotel should also provide free transportation to/from the alternative hotel.

Issue #3:  Complimentary Phone Calls — Affected guest should be entitled to two (2) complimentary five minute phone calls.

Issue #4:  Upgraded Room and Apology Note — Upon return, hotel should provide a note of apology to the guest and should place them in an upgraded accommodation.

Issue #5:  Group Credited for Pickup & Revenue — The Hotel should credit the Group for all room nights and room revenue from Dishonored Reservations for purposes of calculating any material term of a contract such as room block performance or earned concessions.

In an era where customer service is essential to competitive advantage, no organization can afford to lose a customer because they were poorly treated when they checked into a hotel, for an event.  Most people understand that mistakes happen… they are a part of business.  Laying the groundwork for those mistakes to be handled, with the customer’s best interests at heart, will go a long ways towards preserving a valuable relationship.

Question:  What experiences have you had with a hotel “walk?”  If you handle conferences for your organization, is there a different approach you have taken towards this issue?  We’d love to hear about it!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Lutz July 3, 2010 at 9:18 am

Mike, I totally agree that having a good walk clause can help. I think the key is to make it a bit more painful for the hotel to walk your group vs. someone else. Requiring them to pay for each night of displacement (as you suggest) vs. one night is a major step. It’s really important to reinforce and remind your Conv. Svc or Reservation Mgr. that you have a special clause a couple weeks before arrival. You should also inquire if they are “tight’ on any night and when walks must occur, set up a strategy to ask for volunteers early in the day. It’s also a good practice to request a listing of no shows and walks early each morning during your convention.


Michael M McCurry CMP July 3, 2010 at 9:31 am

Hi Dave,

Great tips about reminding hotel mgmt about the commitment ahead of time. Also, as you point out reporting is very helpful to make a tough situation more strategic.

Thanks for contributing!



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