Should planners try to negotiate resort fees out of a contract or simply focus on getting the best deal possible on the room rate?
Noting that "hotels are following what the airlines are doing in terms of fees," Washington, D.C.-based meetings attorney James Goldberg says that "depending on the nature of your meeting and how much it’s worth to the hotel, you can negotiate these fees out,"
In any case, he advises planners to be aware that hotels will sometimes add new resort fees after the meeting is booked.
"If a fee is not in existence today when you book the meeting, contract provisions can protect you from fees being added in later," he says.
Gary Cornwell, COO of Galactic Marketing Incentives in Arlington, Texas, is among planners who try—not always with success—to get resort fees waived.
"We haven’t had as much luck in getting them removed as we have with getting concessions in room rates," he says. "They seem to come from different revenue streams—it stands out more than a lower room rate."
But some planners say their experience is just the opposite.
"Resort fees are highly negotiable. Depending on your program and dates, you can negotiate on points such as Internet charges and attrition," says Adam Lawhorne, president of Chicago-based Meeting Incentive Experts.
Mary MacGregor, vice president of account development for BCD Meetings & Incentives in Minneapolis, says that while hotels are in a stronger position now than in months past, "there are still situations where we can negotiate the resort fees down. It varies a lot by the size of the group, the time of year."
And when resort fees are part of the package, she insists on transparency.