“We get criticized as an industry for being stagnant, for not being disruptive, for doing things the same old way,” she said. “It’s really important to talk to people in other industries and share knowledge that we have and learn from others.”
Sherry Parks believes the recent Marriott commission cut was a wake-up call for planners.
“Bottom-line results are the ruling factor, and quality is suffering,” she said. “Staff are less well-trained, the front desk and reservation systems show consistent issues with confirmations, history and reservations. The food has a mediocrity, like the old rubber chicken kind of hotel food. The largest hotel group in the country now has a mediocrity at the top levels of their brands that is affecting performance at the individual property level.”
Parks said she would look to book independent properties going forward.
“I would look to buy other brands, particularly European brands where integrity is still strong,” she said.
The reduced commission with very little notice is typical of changing vendor attitudes, according to Parks.
“There is an unbridled arrogance in the senior level management that gives little or no credence to planners, whether they are third party or in-house,” she said. “They are pushing everything, and you have to be careful.”
Parks said it’s important to have your contracts rewritten in plain English so there are no areas of grey.
“Be very detail-conscious and stay on top of people in a written format for every direction you give,” she said. “This paying 3 percent less on 30 days’ notice is a very strong indication of the lack of caring going on.”
It’s not just hotels, Parks added.
“United is now charging for all bags in economy,” she said. “That’s coming with all the carriers. If you are doing air and estimated $425 per person, and now you suddenly have to add $25 to $50 per person for a meeting, that becomes a big-ticket item. That’s a major lunch or a couple of breaks. That one announcement means that United won’t get my vote if there is an alternative carrier.”
Parks’ overall advice?