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“During the crisis and beyond is a time for hotels/venues and agencies to work in partnership. Withholding payments and commissions is unacceptable and is a major threat to cashflow and future relationships. As we all know, cash is king,” said Lex Butler, Chair of HBAA.

The examples reported involve national chains, medium sized groups and independents, and several of the payments owed amount to tens of thousands of pounds. Often the bookings have taken place and the venue has already been paid and enjoyed the business.

“We’re extremely concerned by many recent reports from agent members that some hotels and venues are making the decision at property and group levels to withhold payments at the moment,” says Lex Butler, Chair of HBAA. “It is unacceptable and needs to be addressed immediately as it seriously threatens the cashflow of the agents and the future of relationships. This crisis is a time to work in partnership and stand united.”

Jonathan Ashley-Cowan, Managing Director of PRIORITY is one of several agents who have spoken out about this issue. “During these tough times, it is vital that our industry works as one to make sure that we all come through this in the best possible shape. To achieve this, we need everyone to be remunerated for the work they’ve done and for every organisation to maintain as much of cash flow as possible just to pay staff and keep going. Not making payments due is just wrong.”

Chris Peacock, Director of Conference Care, said: “The fact that some hotels/venues aren’t considering the payment of commissions owed to be a priority is very disturbing. Venues have a responsibility to the agency community to make good on their commissions for revenue they’ve received.” Susie Christie, Director of Infotel Solutions commented: “This is a huge concern, both for now with cashflow but also for future relationships and business moving forward.”

Lex Butler

lex_butler

Proactive communication

Inntel is one of several agencies who have been told by hotels/venues that they are unable to process commissions due to the accounts department being closed or furloughed. Douglas O’Neill, CEO of Inntel said, “While we completely understand the difficult decisions all businesses are making at the moment, wherever possible Business Critical functions like accounts receivable and payable should be kept open to ensure everyone can carry on as much as possible in these unprecedented times.”

Commenting on this, venue member Ben Hioco, Sales and Marketing Director of Countrywide Hotels said “If there is a problem, rather than leaving the agent chasing or ‘in the dark,’ the hotel/venue should pick up the phone and enter into dialogue and, if necessary make a partial payment now and agree a reasonable date to pay the balance. This is a testing time for relationships and we shall only get through it together if we maintain communications.”

Louisa Watson, Director of Marketing for Wyboston Lakes Resort agreed, saying “The relationship between agencies and venues must remain open, honest and fair. We need each other and if the hospitality and events industry is to come through this major threat to our future, then we must operate legitimately, as partners.”