Fill Your Room Block: Experts Explain How
By Elizabeth Johnson
If you’ve lost sleep worrying about filling your hotel room block and avoiding attrition charges, you’re not alone. It’s a major concern for many meeting and event planners. According to the Event Room Demand Study (jointly released by the American Society of Association Executives, Center for Exhibition Industry Research, Destination & Travel Foundation, Meeting Professionals International and Professional Convention Management Association Education Foundation), an average of 34.1 percent of rooms are booked outside of the block. For some events, that number is as high as 80 percent.
In addition to avoiding attrition, filling room blocks offer planners more benefits. Vetting the quality of hotels allows planners to protect the attendee experience. And, room blocks are often a requirement for meeting space; therefore a filled block improves negotiating power.
“When your room blocks increase, your leverage increases and the dreaded rooms to space ratio become more favorable in the hotel’s eyes so you are able to obtain a better hotel or citywide package including lower room rates and complimentary meeting space,” IMN Solutions Vice President of Client Development, Mary Becton, CMP wrote in a blog post last fall.
During a webinar, “5 Ways to Avoid a Half Empty Room Block,” presented by Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI), Christine Shimasaki CDME, CMP, managing director of empowerMINT.com, Event Impact Calculator at DMAI, and Lisa Astorga, CMP, director of meetings at International Society of Thrombosis and Haemostasis. offered tips to fill the room block:
1. Don’t keep reasons to book a secret - actively market the blocks; consider offering a discount on registration for those who book within the block.
2. Continue to sell past the cut-off.
3. Communicate directly to outside the block bookers—create a special marketing piece to past attendees who have booked outside of the block urging them to stay within the block.
4. Don’t ignore pirates and poachers—education your attendees and send cease and desist letters to the offending parties.
5. Keep informed of local factors impacting occupancy.
IMN Solution’s Irene Angelos, vice president of client development, recommends having the hotel offer special benefits to only the attendees who book through the block such as free Wi-Fi and water in the room, or access to a lounge area.
Angelos also suggests getting creative, “Come up with a networking event at the hotel that only allows those who have booked through the block to get in.”
Chris McLaughlin with Carlson Hotels suggests requiring attendees to provide their hotel confirmation numbers for the conference hotel in their online registrations. Their registration cannot be submitted without it.
Finally, don’t forget about exhibitors.
“Offer an incentive for exhibitors to book within the block (and they are often the biggest offenders) is to offer preferred exhibit booth locations to those that book inside the block,” recommended Joan Buser, vice president of client services at IMN Solutions.
More information about filling room blocks can be found on the IMN Solutions and DMAI websites.
HERE is a replay of the webinar as well.