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Room Rates It wasn’t a surprise, but the trade news bulletin this past January 30 had a lead story about the room rates in Indianapolis during the Super Bowl. We’ve sung the refrain before about the best strategy of getting the lowest room rates is to look at the calendar.

In Indianapolis, the room rate at the Days Inn jumped to $500 per night, with a minimum of four nights! One hotel near the airport was charging more than double that amount, with other hotels joining the madness.

It never has been a secret that hotels do not have a fixed rate. We’ve heard planners talk about “rack rates,” and “standard rates,” and “normal rates,” for years. If you believe in such a thing, I have a Miami causeway to sell you. The fact is that there is no such thing as a standard, normal or rack rate. It is pure fiction.

Caveat Emptor!

This Latin phrase meaning ”Let the buyer beware” fits the hospitality industry like a bikini on a model. Rates fluctuate for only a few reasons, and every reunion planner ought to know what those reasons are! Room rates affect everyone who attends a reunion and it is the responsibility of the reunion planner to negotiate the best possible rate.

That puts the burden on the planner to negotiate the best rate. Rates vary widely according to the location, and the shrewd planner often selects a location just outside the major city where the reunion is planned. Rates also change and vary widely according to the season, according to the days of the week, according to special events in the community, and most of all how much advanced

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business the hotel already has on the books at the time you want to go.

Time of the Year

There are more reunions held in September than any other month. Why? The fact is that hotel bookings in general are lower in that month. It is an in-between time in most locations. As a result, military reunions have naturally gravitated to that month or even the first half of October because that is when the best rates are available. It is good for the reunion group and it is good for the hotel. A good deal is good for everybody! This is not true for every hotel, or even every community, so when you pick a location, ask the question, “What is the best month for us to come?”

Days of the Week

There are two kinds of hotels, those that are busy on the weekends, and those that are busy during the week. When you do a site inspection, ask what days the hotel is least busy, and you will quickly learn the facts for that hotel. We once stayed in a suite on the strip in Las Vegas for the amazingly low price of $29/night. That was the rate for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We were due to fly home on Saturday, so we stayed Friday night and were charged $189 for that extra night! The reason is that the hotel typically was packed on Friday and Saturday night, with some overflow to Sunday night. Similarly, we once stayed in a beautiful hotel in Montgomery County just outside of D.C. with a Metro station across the street. We arrived on Thursday and left Monday morning. The charge for Thursday night was more than $200, but the other days we only paid $49.

Special Events

If ever there was a trigger to jack up rates, special events are it. Booking a reunion at the time and place of a Super Bowl, booking most of New England during leaf-watching season, booking Washington DC during

cherry blossom season, are prime examples of time/location situations the planner should avoid.

What Do You Mean Busy?

Even after you do all the research and planning, you can go to a hotel at what you believe is the time to get the best rate, and you get a shock! Why? The odds are that even though the hotel is usually empty at that time, they have booked another piece of business.

What Do You Do?

By far, the best way to get the lowest rate is to let the hotel decide when your reunion is best for them! You can’t leave it entirely open-ended, but what you do is to give them a time window of at least 30 days. The hotel can look to see how much space is available through that period and then tell you what the best dates are. Whenever that is, it is also to your advantage because you can request more in extras if you go along. Even better, despite the low rate offered, you still have room to negotiate it down further. It depends on the size of your group, and particularly your skill as a negotiator.

A planner once called us to brag about the fact that he had negotiated a $27 per night deal for his reunion at Cape Cod, with a guarantee that every room he booked would have an ocean view. What a deal! On questioning, we quickly learned that the reunion was in the middle of January. We don’t know about you, but as a South Floridian, you couldn’t pay me enough to go to Cape Cod in January!

Do Your Homework

The moral of this article is that you should ask questions before you decide on the time and place to have your reunion. A few simple questions, readily answered will tell you when and where you can make a good deal for your prospective attendees.

R EUNION F R IENDL Y N EWS • Spring, 2012

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