I’ve always been the one in charge of family travel, so I readily volunteered to book hotel rooms for my daughter’s dance team. I figured that it would be the same as making an individual reservation – just call the hotel and book the rooms. It turns out, Group Bookings (defined by hotels as 10 or more rooms per night) are way more complicated than single rooms!
The most important thing to know is that group rooms are held under a contract which must be signed by an individual who is responsible for the entire group. Instead of leaving just a 1-night deposit for your room only, you will need to commit to filling the entire block of rooms with individual reservations, which are usually required 3 to 4 weeks in advance. You don’t have to pay in advance, but you will need to make sure everyone makes a reservation by the cut off date, or you could be liable for unused rooms.
There are ways to protect yourself though. Be sure to request an “Attrition Allowance” from your hotel salesperson. This allows you to reduce your total room block commitment by an agreed upon percentage, usually 10% of your total room block, without penalty. Similarly, make sure you read and understand your Cancellation Clause. This is another area where you have a good opportunity to negotiate better terms than originally proposed by the hotel, but always make sure you understand your obligations should your group fail to book.
That’s another major point to understand. In order for a reservation to be credited to your room block, your group MUST use the booking code provided by the hotel. Anyone that book a room without crediting to your room block will not count towards your obligations. Be sure that no one in your group “goes rogue” by using an online travel agency like Expedia or Priceline, or uses hotel loyalty points, or forget to use the Group Code to book their room; or you could be personally liable for unfilled rooms.
There are a lot of benefits to booking a group rate. You generally get the lowest available price (but this is not guaranteed) and – most importantly – your rooms are held for your group so if the hotel sells out, your group is protected.
There are online tools that are specifically designed to help you find and book group room blocks. I used Vindow’s Platform. It’s a great website where I can research and compare hotels and even create an RFP to request rates from several hotels to get the best rates and terms to make sure I’m getting the hotel that’s right for my group.
Research and negotiate – two keys to making sure your group gets the value and service they deserve.