Fewer than 51 percent of city-wide convention attendees use a meeting’s event-housing room block portal to make their hotel room reservations, according to a recent study conducted on behalf of Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), the Hilton Corporation, and NYC & Company.
Another 25 percent make their own reservations at designated hotels and are not recognized as attendees; surprisingly, about two-thirds of those attendees actually pay more than guests who use the official room block.
The research, done by Kalibri Labs and Prism Advisory Group, revealed that the percentage booking outside the room block is even higher among Millennial and Generation Z attendees with 59 percent making their reservations outside of the conference hotel room-block channel.
Here are some ways planners suggest boosting your “in the block” bookings:
- Negotiate the lowest rate. The simplest first step is to offer the lowest rates for area hotels, said Diana Maccia, senior director, global accounts,
- Create added benefits. In addition to discounted rates, negotiate and promote complimentary shuttle service, breakfast and Wi-Fi. and any other benefits the group can negotiate for bookings within the room block, said Susan Chapins, account director, Expovision.
- Respect hotel loyalty programs. “Highlight that guests can still earn their hotel rewards when they book through the room block,” Chapins said.
- Offer incentives. Maccia said some clients also offer incentives such as an early registration discount or a gift card to Starbucks.
- Bundle rooms with registration. Offer a lower registration rate to those who book at a host hotel, or package hotel and added benefits with registration rates, with a higher stand-alone registration fee for those who do not book their stay within the room block, suggested by Harvey Paul Davidson, CHME and a CMP Emeritus chairman, Ad Hoc Committee.
- Use a carrot, not a stick. Always try to provide positive reinforcement, versus taking a punitive stance for booking outside the block. For example, if you want to charge a higher registration fee for those who do not book within the block, frame it as a discount for those who do, said Anne Carey, customer service specialist, attendee engagement, BCD Meetings & Events
- Capture credit from out-of-block bookings. “All contracts should specify that ‘all rooms sold to conference delegates will be included in group pick-up calculations,’” said Karen Wesloh, CAE, CMP executive director, Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) and partner and senior account executive, The Harrington Company. “There should be a clearly outlined procedure for verifying if rooms purchased outside the block were sold to your organization’s delegates.”
- Implement a lowest rate clause. “Problems arise when a hotel offers rooms at a rate below the contracted room block rate over the dates of the conference, so consider including language in your contracts specifying that the hotel cannot offer rates below the contracted rate over the dates of the conference,” Wesloh said.
- Promote, promote, promote. “Many attendees are not aware of the benefits of booking within the block. Highlighting the organization’s hotel package at every given opportunity is a must,” said Chapins.
To access the survey in its entirety, go to www.pcma.org/room-block-future-research-hilton-nyc-company/.