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Online housing reservations: no room for errors.

"Technology is not going away," says Peter Hedlund, vice president of sales, Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association (GMCVA). "The quicker an organization accepts that and gets on board, the easier the change is going to be." Acting on the belief that technology is here to stay, in 1995 GMCVA began offering online housing registration to associations meeting in Minneapolis.

"We started it primarily because we're experiencing such a large increase in international attendance at medical and scientific meetings," Hedlund says. "It was so difficult for the international delegates to work with the old housing system - faxing forms internationally, filling them out by hand. We kept having to send them back and get corrections. So we created a housing form on our Web page that allows them to make their housing selections and send them to us via the Internet, along with their credit-card numbers for deposits."

Designed to ease the burden on international delegates, it is now used by domestic attendees as well. "With each group we do, it's becoming more popular," explains Hedlund. "A year ago, we were doing maybe 4 or 5 percent of a group via the Internet. Now we're doing between 20 and 25 percent."

One advantage of online housing reservations: It can dramatically reduce errors, says Gail Schenone, director of housing, Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau, who accepted reservation forms via the Internet for an association computer show last year. The beauty of the system, she says, was that it refused to transmit housing reservations that were missing essential criteria, such as the date of arrival, mailing address, or postal code.

"We processed about 2,200 reservations," she says. "Approximately 18 percent of those were processed via Internet. That's almost 20 percent that we didn't have to enter manually. This is a great advantage for meeting planners and delegates because of the accuracy of the information transmitted."
COPYRIGHT 1997 American Society of Association Executives
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Association Management
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Apr 1, 1997
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