Sofitel Charges ‘Access’ Fee
It has recently been reported in the Australian Special Events Magazine and the current issue of Mice.net, published on behalf of the Meetings Events Australia association, that the Sofitel Hotel in Brisbane has elected to introduce a new $75 ‘venue access’ fee to external audiovisual companies. Is it a big deal?
In the short term – no not really. Long term? Yup.
FACTOR168 works extensively overseas as well as across Australia, and in our experience it is not that uncommon for event producers like us and our valued clients to be presented with a whole host of ‘extra’ venue charges. Reasonable and not.
This can vary from city to city and site to site but can include access to service lifts and loading docks as put forward by the Brisbane Sofitel with this new fee/levy.
Although we have never been charged for ‘wear and tear’ to the building as raised and sensibly discounted by the Sofitel Brisbane General Manager – some charges we have incurred can be considered by many as very unreasonable when added to agreed general venue hire charges.
An example? Okay, working at Shaw Studios in Hong Kong, the venue insisted on charging for every car space within their private car lot (it was discovered later that the entire site was subsidized in part by the government to encourage corporate events…wow) and much to my amazement – was also keen on charging an access levy for each ‘section’ of their private road network that criss crossed the event site. We are talking the access roads here!
Shaw Studios – on a personal level, lovely to work with but as a business event friendly venue, well let’s just say that unless our clients had some really serious motivations, we would encourage them to consider more cost controlled sites such as the Hong Kong Convention Centre. Which on a sister event they did and with the money saved from all those access fees, the show got extra sizzle to everyone’s delight.
I make this point as the Sofitel, as lovely as it is, is not the only sole venue of choice.
Without a doubt – the two biggest and mission critical venue related charges incurred overseas is air conditioning and production power consumption.
I recall staging a heavily geared technology show for IBM (USA) in Singapore on behalf of Alford Media from Texas and being presented with an estimation of power charges by the venue. It was in the thousands.
Still in Singapore – try to rehearse a hundred strong song and dance cast within the Singex Exhibition Halls without air conditioning. Madness.You wouldn’t do it. I didn’t. My client and I haggled and paid. Singex were flexible with their ‘access’ fees.
As were the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall (PEACH). It was a joy to work with Thai management who were very happy to accommodate us on site fees in return for our corporate event business. We have since returned there for a follow-up event and they continued their high degree of hospitality.
The upshot – well I guess if FACTOR168 is faced with only a $75 fee at the Brisbane Sofitel, we are not thrilled but we are certainly not desperately unhappy. We’ll just regard it as ‘av corkage’.
As a sidenote - this fee doesn’t actually surprise me at all. With the new AV inhouse supplier at Brisbane Sofitel being AV Partners you could declare this inevitable. Bankrolled by former Staging Connections supremo Gary Hackett, he had previously introduced a technician on duty or ‘TOD’ fee at all his contracted venue partners. From memory it was $60 or perhaps even … cue dramatic spooky music – $75 per hour. Not that dissimilar to the tech fees I have previously been charged at ‘teamster-styled’ unionised venues notably in Las Vegas and Atlanta.
Still at least the proposed Sofitel ‘av corkage’ is a fee in return for access.
Some convention centres in Australia have some very restrictive anti-competitive policies. Sydney is not so bad as they are happy to partner, the Gold Coast is sensational and a venue of choice, whereas Adelaide and to a lesser extent Brisbane are run almost as closed shops. I’d be happy to pay $75 at either of these two sites in return for free and unhindered site access with my partners of choice.
Ultimately – if you are staging an event in the Sofitel Brisbane and $75 is going to break the budget – I suspect you have some serious event budget issues and shouldn’t really be staging the event at all… and certainly not at one of Brisbane’s few five star venues of reasonable event friendly size.
For your reference - the ASE has published the letter announcing this policy from the Sofitel.
Perhaps the devil is in the detail with the second last paragraph of this letter from the hotel’s general manager indicating that this fee ‘may be altered at the hotel’s discretion’.
I’d like to think it could on particular circumstances the Sofitel ‘av corkage’ fee be waived outright… my gut however says that perhaps ISES are right to fight potential future fees for fear of hotels evolving into ‘closed convention shops’. I guess we’ll see.
In the interests of transparency, I should note that I have previously worked for many years developing Staging Connections overseas event footprint. Gary Hackett is a man that I respect, sometimes admired, and it would be fair to say that I am always alert but never alarmed in his presence.
We have no commercial relationship. But I am always open to offers.