According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 156,138 properties reflagged in 2004; that comprised 56.5 percent of the lodging industry.
When my property, the Renaissance Hotel Dallas near the Galleria, announced it would be rebranded as a Doubletree in 2004, the property's sales team notified planners to assure them that their contract terms, room rates, and meeting space commitments would be honored. But planners shouldn't rely on their hotels to reach out to them when properties change brands. It's best to be proactive. Reflagging can present its share of challenges for planners, particularly if itineraries and information have already been communicated to attendees. With this in mind, be sure to ask the following questions if your meeting venue is reflagged.
1. Will the terms of our contract be honored? In all likelihood, your current contract will be honored by the reflagged property. This includes attrition clauses, cancellation policies, meeting space fees, and room rates (you might even catch a break with your contracted rate from the previous brand as many hotels raise their rates after a reflag).
2. Will the property undergo a renovation? Most reflaggings coincide with physical improvements to the property. If this is the case with your hotel, find out where the work crews will be during your stay. Make sure at least two floors separate your guest rooms from any floors under renovation. Also confirm that construction activity will not take place during your meeting. On a more positive note, planners may wish to consider booking their VIPs in the newly renovated rooms (though these rates may be subject to increases).
3. Will the newly branded property honor the frequent guest points of the previous brand? It depends on the policy of the new company. If points are not honored at the newly branded property, ask the hotel to make concessions in other areas such as food and beverage. Other properties may use this as an opportunity to register your attendees in their new frequent guest program with points added at no cost.
4. How do I communicate the hotel's name change to my conferees? If a majority of conferees are coming to the hotel by taxi, find out if the property has notified local cab companies of its name change. Most cab companies can notify their drivers with an electronic message sent right to their cabs. Still another idea is to e-mail an announcement to your attendees with instructions to print it out and present the notice to their cab driver, rental car company, or other transportation provider.
5. Will there be staff changes? In most cases, the sales and catering team and conference services managers at a reflagged hotel will remain intact along with housekeeping, banquet staff, and other personnel. Along these lines, find out if the reflagged hotel will introduce new service standards to enhance your attendees' stay.
News that your venue is reflagging to a new brand can present positive opportunities, provided you ask the right questions and take the necessary steps to protect your meeting's interests.Sharon Butler is director of sales & marketing for the Doubletree Hotel Dallas near the Galleria. She can be e-mailed at [email protected] ihrco.com.