. Opinion: How Planners Are Responding to Commission Cuts | Successful Meetings

Opinion: How Planners Are Responding to Commission Cuts

The founder of Meeting Planners Unite on what's next


Now that we are several months in since Marriott's big commission announcement, we have found that most of the industry has not followed the Goliath. Although Marriott started the commission drop from 10 percent to 7 percent, and Hilton has indicated that their properties have the option to join, no other chain has moved towards the lower commission.

In fact, many properties have indicated they have considered the lower rate and see there is no upside to their owners, management companies, or their bottom line. The decision to lower the commission was flawed from the beginning. Marriott believes that reducing it will improve the bottom line to the properties by either having more clients contact them directly or paying independent planners less for the work they do. 

As much as Marriott -- and to some extent Hilton -- would like to see the independent planner disappear along with the commission they pay, I believe that we are not going to see this anytime soon. In fact, we think that since this all started Jan. 24, we have seen the industry discuss the role of the independent more than ever before. We should thank Marriott for waking up a sleeping giant

The independent planner has always been precisely that -- independent. However, since Jan. 24, these small businesses have united to form an association dedicated to the betterment of the members as a whole along with discussing with prospective clients the reasons why using these members are a benefit to their organizations. In fact, we believe that because of this, we will see an increase in the usage of independent planners to plan and run the various conferences and events throughout the country. Planners from all areas of the industry are looking at all of the hotels equally, rather than believing that Marriott is the only chain worth booking. 

Over the past few months, Meeting Planners Unite has spoken with hundreds of hoteliers of all facets in the industry; owners, management companies, general managers, and others have seen the benefits of keeping the status quo. In fact, many have offered increased commission structures, and some have provided the European commission systems of paying on food and beverage, which is the first time we have seen that in the U.S. Two of these are the Warwick Hotels chain and the Wigwam resort in the Phoenix area. Other properties have offered commission well above the 10 percent standard.

On top of that, we have seen convention bureaus step up to the plate and offer incentives for independent planners to entice them to move their business to a particular area. The best of these is Visit Newport Beach California, which provides an incentive to bring an RFP to their hotels and then a more substantial incentive to book the business with their properties. It has undoubtedly been a win-win for the bureau as they have offered this unique value for many years with excellent success. They value the business the independent brings to them and have seen they are a valuable resource to the marketing efforts of the area.

The short-term plan for Meeting Planners Unite will be working to develop programs specifically for its members with emphasis on the development of these relationships with the hotel companies and independents who see the value of having professional meeting managers and their entrepreneur skills working with the end user on their conferences, along with promoting these organizations on MPU's website and to their members directly. 

David Bruce is a 44-year veteran of the hospitality industry with 12 years of hotel experience and 32 years as an owner in CMP Meeting Services, a full-service meeting management company.