Hotels under fire for withholding agent payments

By Steve Hartridge, published 3/04/20

Hotels and venues are being urged not to withhold payments and commissions to their agent partners during the coronavirus crisis.

The Hotel Booking Agents Association (HBAA) says members have reported that some national hotel chains, medium-sized groups and independent hotels and venues are failing to pay what’s due.

“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.”

The HBAA said several of the withheld payments amount to tens of thousands of pounds and are for bookings which have already taken place.

Chris Peacock, Director of Conference Care, said: “The fact that some hotels and 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, added: “This is a huge concern, both for now with cashflow but also for future relationships and business moving forward.”

Agents said they appreciate that, in some cases, a hotel’s accounts department has been closed or staff furloughed, but said payments should remain a priority.

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.”

Ben Hioco, Sales and Marketing Director of Countrywide Hotels, said communication is vital.

“If there is a problem, rather than leaving the agent chasing or ‘in the dark,’ the hotel or 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,” he said.

“This is a testing time for relationships and we shall only get through it together if we maintain communications. It is short-sighted to treat agents badly and not pay them.”

The HBAA has written to its venue members to urge them to keep up to date with payments and to remind them of its Code of Practice.