gold star on top stepThe news that Marriot, Hilton and now IHG are cutting third-party meeting planner commissions from 10% to 7% has provoked quite a reaction within the industry in 2018. A new lobbying group for indie planners, Meeting Planners Unite, has taken off to tackle this and other issues. Disney has stated it will stand firm at 10%, while other hospitality companies have been courting planners with limited-time incentives, like the “We Appreciate You” 11% commission from Preferred Hotels & Resorts. And some hoteliers have countered by ramping up commissions to new levels. (We’re talking about your 15% commission, Viejas Casino & Resort!)

Whatever side of the 7% commission debate you fall on, it is no mystery that meeting planner incentives help give group sales a boost. Dana spotlights 4 tried-and-true ways you can incentivize planners that aren’t tied to a percentage commission.

1. Reboot the Basics

A survey of what meeting planners wanted offers some takeaways that might surprise you in their utter simplicity. In addition to just wanting a quicker response time from hotels, meeting planners are most interested in back-to-basics offers like food and beverage discounts and free meeting space. And tell the planner about your offers in a good old-fashioned email, please. That’s right, 59% of the planners surveyed would rather have offers come to them via email, while an overwhelming 87% also prefer email over any other type of solicitation.

2. Tap Into Promo Power

Promotions have the power to attract meeting planners, but they don’t have to be flashy to be successful. At Palace Resorts, which owns 10 oceanfront all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and Jamaica, the enduring Ready. Sell. Stay. promotion is based on the premise of the “more rooms you sell, the more room nights you earn.” Giving meeting planners the freedom to use the room nights however they wish has added to the longevity and popularity of this promotion.

3. Cash In With Monetary-Based Incentives

“How I love the sound of clinking money! That beautiful sound of cold hard cash!” says Peanuts character Lucy Van Pelt. CVBs are counting on the allure of monetary incentives for their 2018 programs. Philadelphia is offering between $1 and $2 cash rebates per room night through the end of the year. Planners who book Asheville by September 30 may be eligible for up to $2,500 to enhance their meeting experience. And Huntington Beach, CA, is making site visits more rewarding with free airfare or car service, as well as $1,000 or more applied to the master bill for meetings booked within 45 days.

4. Follow the Euro Model

Another way to circumvent the controversy is by co-opting the European commissions system of paying on food and beverage. For instance, Warwick Hotels and Resorts is offering an extra 5% commission on F&B and meeting room rental for its U.S. and Bahamas properties. This is in addition to the 10% commission on room revenue.

For more ideas and updates on meeting planner incentives and MICE industry trends, contact Lynn Kaniper at or 609.466.9187, ext. 117 today.

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