What Comes With the Room?

Hotel room rates have nearly hit rock bottom for attendees, but planners are finding they can even negotiate amenities into the price of the room. Hotels are offering free breakfasts, package deals on high-speed Internet access, automatic upgrades, and free local calls to recoup business.

Laura Yarbrough, CMP, manager of conferences for the American Payroll Association in San Antonio, TX, says that last August she would receive one free room for every 50 rooms booked; now it's one free room for every 40. She's also been able to get a greater number of staff rooms at half off the group rate. And when it comes to free amenities for her attendees, Yarbrough says that hotels agree, "absolutely, with no questions asked." She's also been able to obtain free health club and spa passes for her VIPs. And her biggest freebie recently: $6,000 in audiovisual services for a meeting to be held in Toronto next August.

Jaclyn Bernstein, DMCP, president and partner of Empire Force Events in New York City, recently attended the Incentive Travel and Meeting Executives show in Chicago, and appreciated the Embassy Suites' free breakfast before starting her day at the busy conference. "That's a great perk," Bernstein says. She also liked the complimentary happy hour each evening from 5:00 to 7:30.

Bernstein plans many of her corporate and incentive meetings at The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, and lately has been able to negotiate slippers and the famous Eloise book (signed by Eloise herself) to be placed in the rooms at no extra charge. "Those added amenities make it worthwhile," she says.