"The more event data we collect, the more we can identify potential factors contributing to more or less hotel rooms being booked outside the contracted room block."
For those of you who know me, you know I have been passionate about the answer to this question for quite some time…like over 10 years! And I’m writing this post today to let you know two things:
1) We have tremendous support by the industry for the answer and
2) We are really close to understanding the answer to this question.
There is an obvious, but not well documented shift in how convention attendees and exhibitors secure their room accommodations. The room block topic has been the center of discussion at many industry events for the past 15 years. Bruce Harris of Experient (previously known as Conferon) was passionate about “Attrition and the Web,” coining the term, Rooms Outside the Block (ROB). This led to advocating for changing the registration model to encourage attendees to book inside the room block and Experient published a “Guide to Room Block Management.”
In addition, the Convention Industry Council (CIC) championed “Project Attrition,” supported by many other organizations and individuals, which further helped us understand best practices for influencing attendees to stay inside the contracted room block. These efforts have been important, but keep us focused on the room block and the room block pick-up as the primary qualification criteria of the event’s value, even in light of general agreement that many attendees book outside the contracted room block.
So before I talk about quantifying the rooms booked around the contracted room block, I do want to emphasize that hotel room pick up is still an important metric to track and share with convention & visitors bureaus (CVBs) and hotels. In fact, we recently wrote an article dedicated to why historical pick-up information is important.
However, only focusing on historical hotel room pick up has consequences, especially when CVBs and hoteliers utilize booking guidelines designed to maximize room night production for the venue or destination. If an event has a high percentage of attendees booking outside the contracted room block, then that event may be undervalued and the meeting planner may not be able to obtain the needed space and dates several years in advance. This is especially true today, where 69% of planners recently surveyed by PCMA Convene (and sponsored by empowerMINT.com) are being more conservative and blocking less hotel rooms.
As the advocate for customers at my previous position as Executive Vice President of the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau (now known as the San Diego Tourism Authority), I encountered this problem numerous times and devised a methodology to accurately estimate the total room demand of events that fell below the established booking guidelines. This analysis helped me educate the San Diego hotel community of the total demand and to consider exceptions to our established booking guidelines. Likewise, Visit DENVER practices a similar analysis to help their sales team not only with better decision making, but by also providing a tool to better educate their community on the overall value of an event.
In addition, stakeholders such as media and local politicians, unfamiliar with industry trends, could misinterpret an event’s value. All of this points to the need for the industry to document the extent to which “rooms outside the contracted room block” is occurring and provide a foundation and catalyst for other changes to occur.
The way we will begin to answer our proverbial question is to conduct the Event Room Demand Study, which will quantify, for the first time in our industry, the degree to which hotel rooms are booked outside the contracted room block. I am grateful to the following industry foundations who are supporting this study and to Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics Company who will conduct the analysis.
- The Center for Association Leadership (ASAE)
- Center for Exhibition Industry Research Foundation (CEIR)
- Destination & Travel Foundation
- MPI Foundation
- PCMA Foundation
Over the past 45 days, we completed a test period and we appreciated the cooperation by Experient, Smith Bucklin & Associates and the members of DMAI’s Meeting Professionals Advisory Board, who provided us with anonymous event registration zip codes and housing data. This exercise helped us to refine the study’s methodology so we can commence the full data collection.
I hope you also find this study important and will encourage the participation of other housing and registration companies to contribute anonymous event registration zip codes and housing data. The more event data we collect, the more we can identify potential factors contributing to more or less hotel rooms being booked outside the contracted room block.
If you think you can help, please be sure to leave me a comment below or email me at email@example.com.