We’ve all read or experienced the horror stories of attendees or exhibitors left with substandard, far away rooms, or worse, no room at all!

Why is attendee housing so difficult and how do you make it right?

The first key is understanding what each party wants:

Stakeholder #1 – Hotels

It isn’t always about the room rate. Hotels have revenue goals not only for each sleeping room, but also food outlets, meeting rooms, banquet kitchen and sometimes a union contract. When you understand what these goals are, you can negotiate to the strengths of your meeting demographic.

Stakeholder #2 – Your Meeting or Convention’s Budget

This can be the most difficult of all. Budgets are normally finite and cannot be changed. While you can build a “reserve” into some budgets or shift expenses and income, attrition can destroy the most thoughtful and well-prepared budget.

Stakeholder #3 – Attendees

For most attendees, it’s all about the sleeping room rate. The convenience of taking an elevator to the meetings instead of a taxi (from a cheaper hotel across town) is often discounted.

Stakeholder #4 – Exhibitors/Vendors

While the sleeping room rate is certainly important to this group, convenience and access to the attendees are of greater importance. Being where the customers sleep, eat and socialize gives them more opportunity for face-to-face interaction. Most meeting planners want to be able to promise as much exposure as possible.

A Few Best Practices…

  • Use your registration portal to deliver messaging that incents the attendee to book where it makes the most sense for their budget, your attrition and the hotel’s revenue needs. It’s important to be upfront and honest with attendees. Tell them the group as a whole needs as many bookings within the room block as possible and why. Use technology to guide attendees through the registration process in a way that includes overnight room reservations, not as an add on to be dealt with later or as an after thought.
  • Use a hotel’s technology that allows meeting planners to manage simple room inventories in a partnership of transparency.
  • Insist on the right language in your hotel contract to protect against the appeal of Priceline and its peers with a post-event audit.
  • Contracting with hotels is the main area in which one must interact personally, and personal attention should continue throughout the process. Managing cut-off dates (releasing or adding rooms to your block) is one example. Planners with pre-existing relationships or with a reputation that lets them quickly form those relationships have an advantage. Therefore, don’t be afraid to call a third party planner or someone else in the industry for a little coaching and if very comfortable, turn the task over to them.Finally, if you need to connect with a third party meeting planner for site selection help, it’s free for the asking…


Getting Convention Housing Right is an article by Brian Santor, a marketing and advertising executive with extensive meeting planning experience with thanks to Cynthia Butler of Informed Sources