October 12th, 2018

From the start, my company, Multi-Cultural Convention Services Network, MCCSN, like other third-party meeting and event managers, has traditionally relied on a 10 percent commission that the lodging industry paid them for booking hotel room block business.

We research and solicit clients, assess their needs, arrange initial property site tours, review proposals, negotiate concessions, confirm agreements, and then hand their group business over to the hotels. All packaged neatly with a bow on top.

The revenue from that commission was enough to keep my small, woman-owned business – my slice of the American dream – alive. But recently three of the nation’s biggest hotel chains, Marriott International, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, and InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), slashed the commission rate to 7 percent. And as a result, I am seriously questioning the viability of my business model.

Meanwhile, there are four meeting and event management corporations, Maritz Global Events, Conference Direct, HPN Global, and HelmsBriscoe, which still enjoy a 10 percent commission because they deliver in high volume to the hotels.

Is it against the law for big companies to unite and squeeze out the little operator? No. However it amounts to double jeopardy for my segment of the industry.

Do I throw in the towel? No, again. That’s not my style. Right now, I see it as my responsibility to ensure existing and future clients that they can depend on receiving the highest level of service possible when they sign up with MCCSN. That it’s me they talk to when they call, a woman with two decades of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry. A woman who specializes in site selection, contract negotiations, conference logistics and management, as well as creating and facilitating special events. Not some novice in a massive agency whose calls “may or may not be recorded” before being referred to another department.

There’s a lot of buzz about the commission issue right now. I’m thinking of joining forces with Meeting Planners Unite, a lobbying effort for independent planners like me, or I might start lobbying on my own.

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