|By Michael Sasso, Tampa Tribune,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 03, 2012--TAMPA -- A fight between the Tampa Bay area's hotels and Republican National Convention planners seems to be easing as many hotels cut their room rates for the August convention.
The two sides are still far apart, though, on a fee that hotels must pay the convention's planners and its hotel booking agency.
RNC planners last fall complained that area hotels were charging too much for rooms for the convention. Hoteliers responded that they were charging only what the planning staff had agreed to as long ago as 2010.
In the three months since the ruckus started, most area hotels have come to terms with the convention's planning staff, said Bob Morrison, executive director of the Hillsborough County Hotel and Motel Association. Many hotels have agreed to charge 40 percent to 60 percent less than what the contract allows them to charge, he said.
Only five or six local hotels continue to hold out for the maximum room rate, arguing that the original rates are fair, Morrison said.
A contract between the parties allows hotels to set their rates according to what they charged 18 months before the convention's start. So, hoteliers could charge the same rates they charged in February 2011 -- the height of Florida's tourism season. Convention planners argued they shouldn't pay high February room rates for an August event.
Hoteliers and the RNC's Committee on Arrangements haven't yet come to terms on a booking fee that hotels must pay, Morrison said. Originally, hotels expected to pay just $30 per room. But the Committee on Arrangements and its hotel booking agency, onPeak, are pushing for a fee equal to 10 percent of a guest's room charge.
That 10 percent fee might wind up costing hoteliers up to $100 or so per room, Morrison said.
James Davis, spokesman for the Committee on Arrangements, said he expects all the issues between the convention planners and hotels to be worked out soon.
"A majority of the hotels have contracts that are ready to go," Davis said.
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