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Audiovisual Equipment and Services In Your Hotel Contracts

October 8, 2021
Reading time: 5 min

The information provided in this video does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Information in this video may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Readers of this website should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter.

In this video, you'll about the role that audiovisual equipment and services play's in your hotel contracts and how to navigate to ensure all parties feel comfortable. 

Check out what Barbara Dunn (Partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, representing groups) and Lisa Sommer Devlin (Devlin Law Firm, P.C. representing hotels) have to say in Legalease With the Ladies- powered by HopSkip!

Video Transcript:
Audiovisual Equipment and Services In Your Hotel Contracts

Barbara: Hi, I’m Barbara Dunn, an attorney that represents groups in connection with their meetings travel and hospitality contracts.

Lisa: And I’m Lisa Sommer Devlin, an attorney that represents hotels and resorts regarding convention and group related matters.

Barbara: Together we're Legalease with the Ladies powered by HopSkip. Today's focus will be on Audiovisual Equipment and Services in hotel contracts. For group clients that I work with, education, training and networking are key components of their meetings and events. And as such, audiovisual services and equipment are often a necessity. So, working with a hotel it's really important at the outset for the group to understand where the guard rails are so to speak as it relates to use of audiovisual services and equipment. Many hotels have contracts with certain companies that provide exclusive services at the hotel. So, specifically companies that will provide audiovisual equipment and audiovisual services.

So, it's important to know before you ever start negotiating with a hotel whether that is in fact the case. That is that the hotel will only allow that particular exclusive provider to provide goods and services for the group's meeting. In other contexts, hotels will agree that the group can bring in their own audiovisual supplier, provided that certain requirements are met. These requirements are fairly reasonable and understandable if you're looking at it from the hotel's perspective. They want to make sure that any of the vendors you're bringing on site have insurance and also agree to indemnify the hotel if there are any damages to the hotel during their work.

In most cases, groups are comfortable making these commitments. The one trend I’ve seen recently is that as exclusive audiovisual providers become an important line of revenue within a hotel (and for that vendor), I’m seeing more provisions in hotel contracts that make it even more restrictive for groups to bring in their own equipment and to use their own audiovisual service supplier. So again, it's really important to understand where those boundaries lie. Certainly, there are always services at a hotel which the hotel would say are exclusive, many of those relating to safety. For example, electrical, rigging and the like those are typically always reserved to the hotel. But goods and services for audio visual typically doesn't fall within that category.

Again, it is very important to ask that question. And because education training networking is such an important component for group meetings, it's really essential that groups vet that out properly at the outset. Finally, from my perspective on the group side often I see hotels offer discounts if the group uses the in-house or so-called exclusive audiovisual provider. And if that's the case and the group is comfortable with that approach, I think that's fine. Again, as I've said in many of the other videos, if you're going to get a discount you have to benchmark it against something.

So, you need to know and you need to attach to the contract what those audiovisual prices are so that you know what that discount is based on. That's really an important component to understanding what you're getting versus what you're not getting. And we know as in the case with retail stores, sometimes the prices are marked up and then we get the discount off of that. So again, it's just important to be transparent on all sides ask those questions. And I know Lisa from the hotel's perspective, there may also be some union jurisdiction issues when it comes to audiovisual services.

Lisa: That's right Barbara. First of all, you have to remember from the hotel's perspective, they own and operate those premises. They have the right to say who can and who can't come in those premises. Even though they're a place of public accommodation, they always have the right to refuse service. And they certainly have the right to say these services are exclusive. Just like every contract says you can't bring in your own food and beverage and people don't really think twice about that. The same could be true for audiovisual. The hotel has the right to say that you are required to use its in-house services, whether it's audiovisual or something else.

Now hotels understand that certain groups especially if they're holding multiple meetings have developed a relationship with their own audiovisual company and they want to bring that company in. They may like working with them they may think they get a deal. There could be a lot of different reasons and the hotels are open to that. But as Barbara pointed out, first of all they need to make sure that that outside company has the right insurance and that they agree to indemnify in a hotel. Second of all as Barbara said, there may be union requirements or exclusive agreements in place that require certain people to be involved in the provision of certain services. So, if you're bringing in an audiovisual company because you think it's going to save you money, it may turn out to cost you more. Because you're going to have to have somebody stand by and watch to make sure that everything is done appropriately. Because that's a requirement of the exclusive agreement or the union requirement.

So, you really need to get those issues on the table at the beginning of your discussions to make appropriate budgeting and contracting decisions. Another thing to think about is as meetings are changing, we're in a new world and there's more and more hybrid meetings and virtual meetings, you need to find out what services the audiovisual companies can provide for you. Some hotel companies are coming up with very interesting and unique offerings. Allowing meetings to be spread over several hotels or several different cities. And because they use the same audiovisual company, you can link those meetings in a virtual way that you might not be able to do if you bring in your own audiovisual company.

So, everything is on the table in these kinds of discussions. You need to get them out there early so that you know what your options are and what your prices are. But audiovisual is not something that should ruin your deal. You should be able to come to some kind of conclusion with your hotel partner. Barbara?

Barbara: Thanks Lisa. It's particularly important the comment that you've made with regard to union jurisdiction. And the possibility that it may be required to have a supervisor or someone as I sometimes say babysit your outside AV provider for all the reasons that you mentioned and again those should be disclosed. One final comment to dovetail on what you'd mentioned Lisa with regard to hybrid meetings and that is internet, broadband strength and everything else. All the different acronyms that I don't know a lot about. But what I do know is if the technology goes down at a meeting and it doesn't work, you're not getting internet service or otherwise that's equivalent to the fingernails on the chalkboard for many attendees.

Some of that may be controlled by the audiovisual company, some of it may not be. So, that's also an important component in your RFP process and site inspection process. Look at the hotels, find out what they have relative to those technology things. As Lisa mentioned, hotels are really doing a great job as are convention centers in upgrading those technology things. So, it's a great opportunity to seize onto that and take the benefit of that. But again, make sure you're going in eyes wide open that you understand what the hotel can and can't provide.

Thanks for joining us for another edition of Legalease with the Ladies powered by HopSkip. Please leave your feedback and comments below and feel free to subscribe to our channel.

The information provided in this video does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Information in this video may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Readers of this website should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter.

Interested in learning more about contract terms and contract clauses in your hotel contracts? 
Check out the HopSkip Contract Clause Education Center, created by Barbara Dunn and Lisa Sommer Devlin, and become a hotel contracts expert!
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