Words on a
Piece of Paper
In situations where properties are missing a deadline on a renovation or an opening,
meeting planners learn — and fast — that
contracts are only as good as the ability to
“If a hotel says, ‘We are not doing that,
sue us,’ you are stuck,” says Dianne Davis,
event producer for TulNet Meetings and
Events. “Unless you are willing to go into
litigation, and have the time and money
that costs, it is just all words on a piece of
It is expensive to enforce your legal
rights. John Foster, Esq., CHME, an attorney
with Foster, Jensen & Gulley, recommends
including a fee-shifting provision, which al-
lows the prevailing party to recover its attor-
ney fees and costs in the event of litigation.
While hotel construction resulted in
Davis’ group having to be relocated, there
are cases where a hotel will cancel one
group in order to accommodate another,
more profitable, one.
“There is nothing immoral or illegal about
a hotel canceling a meeting,” explains
Foster, who advises meeting planners to
have their contracts reviewed by an attorney
before signing, to avoid potential future dis-
putes. “It’s all dollars and cents. The only
thing you can do is make sure the injured
party gets enough money to be made whole
again by the defaulting party.”
In spite of the fact that the hotel Davis
was having her gathering in canceled less
than two weeks out, the meeting was a
great success. “I am a better meeting plan-
ner having done this, as I learned so much.
I will never take that something like this
can happen for granted. It can happen to
After the shift of the reception, things
seemed to be going as planned and Davis
focused on the event’s menu selection, registrations, and last-minute queries from the
group of 70. But then, 13 days before the
event was to begin, she joined a conference
call with the hotel’s director of sales and
marketing, a convention services manager,
and her sales manager. They told her that
due to the ongoing construction issue it
would be unsafe to hold the meeting, and
that they could not accommodate the group.
An email from the director of sales and marketing followed, recommending that Davis
make alternate meeting arrangements, and
offering to help secure arrangements.
“At first, I had trouble processing this,”
says Davis. “I was in the hotel business for 15
years and know these things happen. I know
what it looks like when a scenario like this is
managed right. They should
have offered to pick up all
the charges associated with
moving to a comparable hotel.” That did not happen.
What Davis did: A
clause in the contract stated
if the hotel couldn’t accommodate the group, they
could make arrangements
at a sister property. Thing
is, this hotel chain consists of only five properties. “I saw this language and was shocked.
It shows the life of a busy meeting planner is
not perfect. We miss things,” she admits. “I
owned it and didn’t try to gloss over it.”
The sales manager told Davis that there
wasn’t a hotel in Fort Lauderdale that could
accommodate her group, but its sister hotel
in Orlando had availability.
“This was unacceptable, as Orlando is
220 miles away and the group was looking
forward to a beach destination,” says Davis.
“Plus, after running the numbers, I realized
it would cost approximately $100,000 to
change all the flights, many of which were
In addition, the contract they sent for the
Orlando hotel was completely different than
the contract they had in place. The food and
beverage minimum at the new hotel was
$13,000 more and the attrition and cancella-
tion clauses had also been changed. To make
matters worse, the hotel started avoiding her
calls and emails. “We didn’t have time for
this as the hours were ticking down,” says
Davis. “I needed a solution, and fast.”
What Davis will do in the future: At this
point, Davis reached out to Foster, whom
she considers a friend as well as a colleague,
and he gave her sage advice. “A planner’s
No. 1 priority in a situation like this is to
explore all options to book another hotel and
then figure out what damages the first hotel
would be responsible to pay for,” he says.
The general rule is that the party breaching the agreement is responsible for paying the other party for all increased costs it
incurs to use a different hotel, he explains.
Damages would also include revenue lost
through lower attendance at the second hotel, if it could be proven that the change in
hotels caused this, he adds.
“I also told her to keep me in the background to give advice as long as the hotel
was cooperating and offering compensation.
“The life of a busy meeting
planner is not perfect.
We miss things.”
TulNet Meetings and Events