Tampa hotels should not have to lower rates for RNC

On November 6, 2011

Hosting an event such as the Republican National Convention (RNC) is supposed to bring myriad benefits to cities, including an economic boost. Considering the state of the economy, next year's RNC may be just what Tampa needs.

Yet, two weeks ago, RNC organizers asked hotels, which stand to benefit the most from the influx of convention goers, to lower their rates and pay a higher commission, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

While the RNC is not unaffected by the economy and may want to save money, the request likely left hotel owners with the same bad taste many Netflix consumers experienced when the company increased its prices, especially since convention planners signed contracts with specified rates more than a year ago with 95 Tampa area hotels for about 15,000 rooms, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

The contracts ensured hotels would not jack up their prices, and it is unreasonable for convention planners to demand lower rates.

Convention bidding rules, agreed upon more than a year ago, prevent hotels from charging more than their highest rates 18 months before the August convention and Bob Morrison, executive director of the Hillsborough County Hotel and Motel Association, said to hotel managers during a Thursday meeting that hotels aren't even charging that much, according to the Tampa Tribune.

"I haven't talked to one that wasn't 20 percent to 60 percent below what they could have asked according to the contract," he said.

The contract meant hotels could charge rates from this past February, a more popular month than August, which means rates could be higher than usual for the convention. However, these rates were still established by contract, and Morrison rightly told hotel owners they need not agree to the RNC's requests. He also defended the potentially higher rates.

"We have asked for and not received any examples of rates inconsistent with the contract," he said, according to the Tribune. "My data to date suggests the rates are consistent with the nature of the business, the increased costs our members are going to incur and delivery of service for a unique event."

Organizers say that some rates, agreed upon by their predecessors, were too high, and they also want hotels to pay the RNC 10 percent of each guest's hotel bill, up from a flat rate of $30 per room, according to the Times.

If hotels implemented both changes, they would be receiving less money from convention goers and paying the RNC more for the privilege of their business. The convention is supposed to be a boon to Tampa's economy, and if hotels are already charging reasonable rates, they shouldn't be expected to agree to these new conditions.

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