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Promoting the room block.

How to get members to use your association's room block is perhaps the hottest topic in event management. This challenge actually encompasses two separate situations: 1) attendees or exhibitors who book in hotels outside of your group block and 2) attendees or exhibitors who book outside your group's block but in your contracted hotels.

Creating incentives for those booking within the block is essential, as is ensuring that your contracts allow post-show audits and credits for all rooms in the hotel that were a part of your group. Some organizations are even considering options such as only distributing the final program to those who book at their hotels. To encourage your constituents to book rooms within your block, you must create more value than location and rates.

It's easy to say "get your hotels in line with pricing," but the reality is that hotels are getting significant pressure from their owners to keep the pricing as high as possible, and in some cities--such as San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C.--we're seeing little flexibility.

If you force your meeting participants to book within your block, you may anger them. So should you reduce your overall room block because you know that your attendees and exhibitors are going to book outside your block, and you don't want to pay attrition penalties? The challenge you face with this strategy is that you need a certain number of rooms on peak nights to book a convention center, and you may no longer qualify for the amount of meeting and exhibit space you need. Here are some suggestions for dealing with the room-block challenge:

* Get creative with incentives for staying within the block.

* Educate your board and volunteer leadership on the issue.

* Encourage your meeting professionals to network with other planners to share successful and not-so-successful strategies.

* Educate your attendees. Explain that their future registration fees may be affected if the organization is faced with attrition penalties.

* Re-establish your relationship with exhibitors regarding group blocks. Consider offering priority points for booking within the group block.

* Pay particularly close attention to contracts (e.g., language, mutual risk management, separation of attrition penalties from meeting room rental charges, rates, etc.).

* Ask your convention and visitor bureau to help you pull the hotel community together in dealing with this issue.

* Involve staff leadership beyond the meetings department in strategizing with your third-party registration and housing partners.

Submitted by Jacy Rosen Hanson, principal, JRH Consulting Services, Clifton, Virginia. E-mail
COPYRIGHT 2003 American Society of Association Executives
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Title Annotation:Event Management; lodging of conference delegates
Author:Hanson, Jacy Rosen
Publication:Association Management
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2003
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