Why negotiation is a whole new game

Good negotiation skills are a must for any event planner but post-pandemic, the bar has been raised even higher.

Short lead times don’t leave much area for negotiations, says Ian Cummings, global head, CWT Meetings & Events.
Short lead times don’t leave much area for negotiations, says Ian Cummings, global head, CWT Meetings & Events. Photo Credit: CWT Meetings & Events

Discounts and event contract renegotiations were a common theme when live events tentatively returned in a select number of destinations in 2021, with hotels and venues eager to attract business. With many countries now having eased restrictions, planners may face a variety of pricing challenges when organising events, with much less room for negotiation than before.

The critical factor in negotiations is lead time
Short lead times don’t leave much area for negotiations. “Corporates must be planning now for the second half of 2023 if they want to find availability and have the opportunity to negotiate,” says Ian Cummings, global head, CWT Meetings & Events.

“Some organisations are already focussing on 2024 for their big events and we must encourage a pushing out of more sensible longer lead times in order to help with better planning, availability across the whole supply chain and fair negotiations to meet specific budgets.”

Expect less leverage with hotels
Earlier this month, Marriott International said it had seen the largest surge in demand since the pandemic started in the first quarter of 2022, with every region except for Greater China showing signs of recovery.

With occupancy rates bouncing back and events taking place in-person, securing a meeting space at a favourable price might be harder than you think, with hotels likely to offer far less flexibility, due to increased demand.

Price is not the only factor
If you can’t negotiate a lower price for a venue or hotel rooms, consider what else can be thrown in to sweeten the deal. This could be an upgrade of hotel rooms, free transfers between a venue and an airport, extra amenities in hotel rooms or some additional items for food and beverage.

Agencies have become stronger negotiators
CWT’s Cummings says most agencies have shifted their risk profile as a result of the pandemic and are no longer prepared to “be the bank” offering long credit terms and pay deposits without having funds in-house.

“They have become much stronger negotiators and this was to be expected. I don’t think venues are charging excessive rates, but certainly due to the increased demand the need to discount is more absent and instead rates for meetings & events are being pushed up. We know these rates will be at the higher end and we will always try to do the best we can for our clients, making budgets stretch as far as possible.”

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