Originally posted by Daniel Metz on May 12, 2014 on pcma.org.
Are you worried about filling the rooms in your hotel contract at your next meeting? You’re not alone. As planners review room block pick-up reports, lagging numbers can cause some serious stress in the weeks and months leading up to the opening session. I caught up with Heidi Voorhees, MBA, CAE, Senior Vice President of Housing at Experient, to get her thoughts on how planners can take proactive steps to make sure everyone at their meeting understands where to stay.
1) Define attrition damages for your attendees.
Planners spend plenty of time talking about room nights, but the reality is that the average attendee has no idea what attrition means for the organization. Many attendees are accustomed to using online price comparison tools such as Priceline, Hotwire and Expedia to save on their personal travel. Without an in-your-face explanation of why they should book directly through the meeting’s housing and registration system, chances are they’ll just browse the Internet for affordable rates.
“Communication needs to begin at the front end of the housing process,” Voorhees says. “The event website needs to clearly articulate the benefits of booking within the block that will resonate with the group’s demographics.”
It’s never too early to begin talking about your room block, either.
“The education should start when they are announcing next year’s event and how booking in the block impacts the organization,” Voorhees adds.
2) Reward your exhibitors for being part of your block.
Where your attendees stay is a crucial piece of your success, but your exhibitor community plays an essential role in the room block, too.
Voorhees recommends calling out the importance of booking within the block before your exhibitors even reserve their booth space by inserting language into the exhibitor prospectus. She also highlights the need for regular reminders in e-newsletters as the meeting approaches.
“We also recommend incentives for booking in the block such as priority points for booth space,” Voorhees says.
3) Make sure your hotel is on your team.
From free parking to complimentary Wi-Fi, your hotel partner may be able to include some additional perks that will please attendees and exhibitors.
“On the front end, contracting with the hotels should incorporate incentives that help to drive attendees and exhibitors into the block,” Voorhees says. “Not only should a lowest rate clause be included, concessions should include value-added items to encourage booking in the block.”