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Deal or No Deal?

Daily deal (or “flash sale” sites) like Groupon, LivingSocial, and Rue La La, are quite popular with both hoteliers and their potential guests, providing, as they often do, slashed rates and an easy method for getting heads in beds during times the hoteliers want them there the most. Unfortunately, these channels may not provide the benefits they seem to, and they pose a number of legal and practical risks that may make them even less attractive.

• Illegal Voucher Expiration Dates. Most of these providers issue vouchers to purchasers for redemption at hotels, which vouchers are considered “gift certificates” under most state and federal laws. Despite language in the standard contracts proposed by the providers, and despite hoteliers’ agreement (or desire) to limit redemption periods, the law may require vouchers be honored well beyond the time the hotel intended it to be. Some states have laws prohibiting the expiration of gift certificates period, some have mandated long validity periods, and federal law requires most gift certificates to be valid for 5 years.

Several clients have lately been asking about notices they've received that look like this. If they come from the Eastern District court in New York, they’re legitimate, and if you are a merchant who accepted Visa or MasterCard or both between January 1, 2004 and November 28, 2012, you are a probably a member of the class and should have received one too. If you didn't, the lawsuit and proposed settlement are discussed in detail here. Take a look; the settlement could affect your legal rights.  You have until May 28, 2013 to exclude yourself from the settlement (opt-out) or object to its terms; the final hearing on the proposed settlement will be September 12, 2013. Assuming the court approves the settlement, with or without changes that may occur as the result of objections, claim forms will be issued after that date to class members and a claim deadline will be set.

Yesterday, PCMA and MPI presented their 11th Annual Industry Summit here in Seattle at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. I had the pleasure of participating at this always well-attended event and spoke on current trends in the world of group contracts.  If you would like a copy of my presentation, please use this link: Group Sales Contracts: Current Trends and Interesting Case Studies.

Congratulations to Summit co-host Cathy Mason for another terrific event.  I look forward to seeing everyone at next year’s Summit.

We rarely publicly celebrate the successes of our hospitality and tourism clients. Tuesday's launch of the proposed Seattle Tourism Improvement Area (STIA) initiative at The Pacific Science Center is one of the best reasons I've seen in some time to break that rule. 

Greg and I were fortunate enough to be asked to present at this year's Northwest Chapter of PCMA and MPIWSC's 9th Annual Meetings Industry Summit:  The New Norm at The Conference Center here in Seattle. For those of our excellent attendees who asked so many good questions both during and after the session and who requested an electronic copy of our slides, and for those who would no doubt have attended had they known, here you go.

As the post title suggests, we discussed trends in group sales/event contract negotiations attributable to the "new norm," primarily, the economy and its attendant changes (AIG effect, any one?) from both the venue and the group perspective. We took a look at contracts we had seen in the last year or two, group and meeting publications and did a brief and entirely unscientific survey of some of our clients to see what new things, if any, they were seeing.

We also talked about what has not changed, namely, the basic positions from which each party negotiates and what their objectives are, as well as some of the most imporant provisions in any group contract. 

Thanks again to Tom Norwalk of the SCVB for recommending us and PCMA and MPI for having us.

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Greg Duff, Editor
Greg Duff founded and chairs GSB’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.

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