Thursday, August 4, 2011

An Introduction to Hotel Management Agreements

With the continued growth of Oman’s tourism sector serving as a centerpiece of the government’s ‘Vision 2020’ economic development plan, one can expect a significant number of new hotels to open in the Sultanate over the coming years.

This article explains what hotel management agreements are and why they are crucial to most hotel development transactions. Next month, we will cover some of the key issues that typically arise in the negotiation of management agreements.

What is a management agreement?

Many hotels, particularly the large-scale, luxury hotels on which the Omani tourism sector is focused, are managed by one of the major international hotel operating companies. These operating companies are the household names whose signage adorns hotels across the globe, such as Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt, Intercontinental or Mandarin Oriental. A number of the international operating companies own some of the hotels they manage. However, many of the operating companies are engaged principally in the business of managing hotels owned by other investors, in exchange for fees.

The management agreement is the primary written contract between the hotel owner and the operating company, setting out the parties’ respective rights and responsibilities, typically in exhaustive detail. There are often other ancillary agreements between the hotel owner and the operating company as well, covering such matters as the use of the operating company’s intellectual property or the payment of the hotel owner’s share of expenses related to activities – e.g., staff training, reservations or marketing – that the operating company conducts jointly for all of the hotels under its management on a regional or worldwide basis.

Why are management agreements so important?

Hotel management agreements are crucial for two main reasons. First and most obviously, large luxury hotels are big business – there is a great deal of money, jobs and prestige on the line for both the hotel owner and the operating company, so management agreements must be negotiated thoughtfully and drafted carefully, commensurate with their high-quantum, high-stakes nature.

Second, hotel management agreements are important because they are the framework that govern a very long-term business relationship. Most hotel management agreements run for a term of at least 10 years and often 15 to 20 years, typically with the option for the parties to extend for an additional 5 or 10 years by renewal. The hotel management relationship often lives on long after the individuals who entered into the relationship – on both the owner and operator sides – have left their respective organizations. Thus, a well-drafted management agreement can play an important part in maintaining a long, mutually prosperous and harmonious relationship between the hotel owner and the hotel operating company.