Meeting Planners Unite, the group that started in May as a reaction to Marriott International and other hotel properties cutting commissions for third-party planners, announced today that its membership has grown to the point that members collectively manage $350 million in revenue. “If everyone on the LinkedIn group signs up, that number could approach $1 billion,” said MPU Executive Director David Bruce. “We often refer to the big four planner groups—HelmsBriscoe, HPN Global, Experient and HelmsBriscoe—but that may have to change to the big five when you include the size of our membership,” he said.

A number of hotel properties, including Hilton Worldwide and Intercontinental Group (which also operates Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts), followed Marriott in the shift to cut commissions from 10 percent to 7 percent. Others have pledged to increase at least temporarily or keep commissions stable, including Dream Hotel Group (Dream Hotels, Time Hotels, The Chatwal and Unscripted Hotels), MGM Resorts International and Irvine Company (The Resort at Pelican Hill, Fashion Island Hotel and Hotel Irvine).

One company, OMNI Hotels, has paid to be named as a Premier Supplier with 25 hotels and national sales offices represented as supplier members. “We are in talks with other chains who support independent planners and the value they bring,” Bruce said.

He has also worked with destinations to compensate independent planners for bringing groups to town. He named Visit Tampa Bay, Arlington, Texas, Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Visit Newport Beach and Visit Montreal as CVBs that have “stepped up to mitigate damage from commission cuts.”

At the group’s first conference in December at Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., appointments will be accompanied by presentations on legal and efficiency tips for self-employed business owners. “2019 will be a wake-up call for the industry as it pertains to independent planners,” he said.