By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
At HSMAI’s Sales Leader Forum on Nov. 5–6, hospitality-law expert Steve Rudner presented a keynote address on “Headlines and Headwinds for 2020: Legal Issues for Sales Leaders’ Radars.” Here are four key takeaways:
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies to any hotel that host an EU citizen. When group clients bring their own GDPR clauses to the table, it can be frustrating for hotels.
Rudner advises hotels to simply say they comply with the GDPR and say no to the additional clauses. He compared this to the Americans With Disabilities Act in that guests or organizations bringing in their own clauses, but by law, as long as hotels comply with GDPR or the ADA, they don’t need to go any further. “If your hotel company is compliant,” Rudner said, “you shouldn’t be saying anything more than you comply with applicable law.”
Companies would pay big money for information from rivals. When you sign a confidentiality clause with a group client, you’re saying that everyone in the hotel (all employees) and anyone that could get into the hotel (such as a reporter taking a paper from a trash can) will keep the information confidential. And that is nearly impossible to guarantee. “If you’re signing this confidentiality clause because you don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” Rudner said, “it’s going to be a problem.”
Rudner suggested talking it over with the organization and telling them what you can do as far as keeping their information safe, such as having guards at the doors and throwing away all handouts — without signing a clause that will hold you liable.
Many hotels are changing the way they calculate attrition — shifting from a cumulative basis to a nightly basis. It doesn’t work if groups book a certain amount of rooms for multiple days but have more than that number some nights and less on others. Both groups and hotels need to stick to that agreement, so the situation works out for both parties.
“A group has always been expecting us to give them rooms on a nightly basis,” Rudner said. “There is no difference between us expecting a group to produce the number of rooms for us on a nightly basis. That’s what nightly attrition is about.”
While nobody knows for sure how the economy will perform, Rudner noted that many observers are predicting an economic downturn next year. In times like this, he said, some hotels like to sign contracts with the promise of unlimited attrition or no cancellation fees, but Rudner warns against that.
“We’ve gone through enough cycles that we know empirically that it does not drive any better business to your hotel,” Rudner said. “There is nobody that’s going to come to your hotel because you’re waiving cancellation fees. What happens is your books get filled with a lot of tentatives that pretend to be definites.”