There is no question - contracts for group business at hotels, conference centers, convention halls, etc., are getting longer and longer, with more and more clauses to cover everything possible. You hardly see any contracts with fewer than three pages, and most are running 10 to 12 pages. It seems that some buyers from the corporate and association markets believe hotels are using outdated contracts, and they need to be beefed up. This is according to a recent "Meetings Today" (Business Travel News) survey of buyers.

As a result of this thinking, a good number of buyers have been creating standard addenda in their contracts with meeting sites. These addenda include clauses that are designed to further protect the buyer in a wide variety of areas - mainly in cancellation clauses, attrition and food-and-beverage functions. When this happens, it is very critical for the vendor representative (in most cases, a sales manager) to take a close look before any acceptance of an addendum is made. More than likely there will be clauses in the document that conflict with clauses already included in the vendor's contract. It all boils down to the negotiations process and how flexible the vendor might be.

The key in negotiating, from the seller's standpoint, has more to do with how well he or she knows the value of the prospect's business, and how badly the property needs the business. Then, the critical point is in the reading and understanding of the terminology included in the addendum presented. If a rider to a contract is accepted, more than likely the information in the rider (addendum) will take precedent over the wording in the original contract.

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