Industry Experts

Disclosing the names of other groups present during your event

Learn how planners can navigate negotiations if hotels are unwilling to disclose the names of other groups that will be present during your event.




In the fast-paced world of meetings and events, navigating hotel negotiations is crucial for every planner.  Our recent HopSkip webinar featured industry experts Sean Whalin (Co-founder and CEO of HopSkip), Barbara Dunn (Partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP representing groups), and Lisa Sommer Devlin (Devlin Law Firm, P.C. representing hotels), who tackled the tricky question: How should planners proceed if hotels are unwilling to disclose the names of other groups present during our event?

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How should planners proceed if hotels are unwilling to disclose the names of other groups present during our event?

Lisa Sommer Devlin

I should jump in since I'm the hotel attorney. The hotels are unwilling to do that because almost everybody in their contract has a clause that says this event is confidential. You can only share information with yourself about the fact that we are in the hotel, that we're having an event, anything.

And even if their contracts don't say that, as a general policy, hotels do not simultaneously share information about other groups in-house. So, what this goes back to is, what are you worried about?

Again, have a conversation. What is it that's your concern? And maybe the hotel can craft a clause that says, you have told us that you don't want groups involving marijuana in the hotel. At the same time, we verify that there aren't any and that we won't book any.

So, it's a conversation, not a disclosure. I'm sure that all of you are going to, or many of you are going to say, oh, well, I've asked for this, and I've gotten hotels to tell me, maybe you have, but those times are changing. More and more privacy and confidentiality issues are out there. And if hotels had agreed to do that, had they gone to their legal counsel, they would have been told not to do that.

So again, you need to consider what you're concerned about and get a clause that covers the issue or the specific competitors you don't want by name. But other than that, don't expect a hotel to disclose anybody else on the premises, whether a group or an individual.

Barbara Dunn

Absolutely, Lisa. I agree with all of the points. Identifying the industry is essential, especially even if you think I should say that a hotel might, by your name, understand the industry, but they may not. So, identifying the industry is essential.

Of course, for corporate clients, even association clients, identifying competitors is good if you can locate them. The other thing is, if you're concerned about any other group, be the only game in the house.

Certainly, you can book a hotel, where you could be the only game in-house. In other words, there would be only one group. That's one way to address it. Also, what is your issue? Are you concerned about a protesting group's security issues, or are you concerned? Again, share the concern because there may be other ways to address it.

I'm seeing a lot more piggybacking issues. So, in other words, exhibitors, sponsors, and others who don't officially participate sign up and attend a conference and yet want a suite or room to do activities.

So, looking at what you can do, whether it's an all-space hold, a release process, or whatever the case may be, again, working with a hotel. So, at the outset, on the group side, please think about why you need what you need and then explain it in a way that's palatable to the hotel but will also fulfill your purpose or address your issue. Right. 

Lisa Sommer Devlin

One of the comments asked, generically, if there are other groups in the house and how big they are. Yes, a hotel can tell you we've got five or one other group, or they would probably even tell you we've got a wedding. Or, they can give you generic information if that's your concern. But Barbara's points are all very valid.

I also want to emphasize that because this is a similar issue, many groups will say, you won't book any other group without our approval, or You won't book any suites without our authorization.

Most suites are booked online, and the hotel needs to know who's booking those. A hotel cannot allow a customer to approve or disapprove of another business. That opens them up to all kinds of liabilities. 

So again, you need to come up with lists of approved associates or affiliates and affiliates that still need to be added. The hotel can enter into a clause that says we will only book approved affiliates, but they can't give you the right to approve or disapprove other businesses.

Barbara Dunn

You will see. Lisa, to add, real quick, you will see, as many of you have in citywide bookings, hotels can be willing to add language to other contracts around those exact dates saying whether this group or this person is not, they're telling us that they're not part of the group, this other thing. Right.

And if it finds out they are, there's a right of cancellation, and they are required in those contracts. So that does happen again. It's my world more the exception than the rule for those city-wide events. 

Lisa Sommer Devlin

And that's a clause that I recommend a lot saying we're not going to let you approve, but for every other group that comes to us after your contract is signed, we will include a clause in their contract that says we are not coming for the ABC event. If we find out that you are, we will cancel you without payment. That's an excellent way to do it.

Sean Whalin

 When you ask about other groups, is it appropriate to ask what industry the group is in, or is that getting into the details too much?

Lisa Sommer Devlin

it depends on, again, having that conversation about what you're worried about. If it's a pharmaceutical group, do you care? Because they're not offensive. So, what is it that you're concerned about? And I would ask about that.


Navigating the intricate dance of event sourcing, privacy, and hotel negotiations is no small feat, but we hope this blog post armed you with strategies to address your concerns effectively. 

The key takeaway is the power of communication—clearly articulating needs and negotiating terms that respect confidentiality and client requirements. Underscoring that while transparency may have limits, creativity in contract terms does not.

As event professionals, continuing this dialogue and refining our approaches will ensure that we not only anticipate the needs of our events but also foster strong partnerships with venues, leading to successful outcomes for all parties involved.

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