It is best to try and resolve situations like these on a customer-to-hotel level rather than lawyering
up right away,” he says.
Davis also enlisted the help of
the Greater Fort Lauderdale
Convention & Visitors Bureau,
which sent out an all-points bulletin to its member hotels. The
Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach
Resort, a property Davis had
worked with in the past, had availability. This was a perfect option.
Immediately, she started a tentative hotel contracting process
with the Westin Fort Lauderdale
Beach Resort. But the contract
could not be signed until a settlement was reached with the original hotel, and at this point, no
one was returning her calls.
After several messages, the hotel general manager got involved.
What Davis did: “I told the
GM to let me out of the contract
immediately as I had found another hotel that could
host us,” she says.
The general manager agreed to send a settlement
agreement for signature, refund the deposit, issue an
apology, and pay for roundtrip airport transfers to
the new hotel, as well as to reimburse a portion of
Davis’ added staff time and labor.
A confidentiality and non-disparagement clause
was included in the agreement that surprised Davis.
Basically, it stated that she was not allowed to speak
about this situation, not even to the attendees or the
association, and that she was potentially responsible
for anything a member of the group said about their
failure to perform.
“After much back and forth, they agreed to waive
this clause,” she says. “My No. 1 responsibility is to
the attendees. The reputation management of the
hotel is their problem.”
In light of this situation, the original hotel also
paid for each attendee to have two complimentary
drinks during the opening reception, for two bottles
of water per room per day, and for beach chairs and
umbrellas. In addition, it refunded the $10,840 de-
posit, made a payment of $2,850 to TulNet for time
and labor, and $1,200 for hotel shuttles.
Attendees and sponsors didn’t accept the change
of hotels without questions. But with some finessing,
and uniform email, social media, and website messaging, all was good.
What Davis will do in the future: In every mistake there is potential for growth, the old adage
goes. In the future, if Davis thinks a contract looks
good, she will examine it one more time. She will
also be hesitant when booking a small or independent hotel chain. “Caveat emptor. You do not have
the depth of the brand or a national sales officer to
back you up,” she says.
The hero in all this, says Davis, is the Westin
Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. The hotel could
have upped its charges, since the meeting was only
days away. Instead, it matched everything from the
original contract, including food and beverage minimums, comps, and room rates.
After all of this turmoil, the conference was a suc-
cess. “At one point, I seriously wondered if we could
have this meeting,” she says. “If the conference had
not happened, we would have had to refund spon-
sors, which could have bankrupted the association.”
Davis says that this has been the most stressful
situation in her entire career. “It took a toll on me
personally. I lost hours of sleep working nonstop to
make sure this conference went off without a hitch,”
she says. “I planned an entire meeting at one hotel
and then had to plan another in a different hotel.”
Dana Toland, founder and president of Weymouth,
MA–based The IT Exchange Group, a company that
provides turnkey meeting planning, as well as complimentary site-selection services, had a similar experience related to hotel construction in Houston, TX.
The Hotel Van Zandt did the right thing when its opening
was delayed and three groups had to be relocated