Room-Block Perks for Conference Guests Need More Promotion

Editor’s Note: It turns out loyalty status and the power of the corporate card are a couple of reasons conference attendees don’t book inside a hotel block. Event organizers should do a better job informing attendees of the perks that come from booking with the group — Andrew Sheivachman

Encouraging conference attendees to book inside the group’s room block helps meet financial demands on both sides of the equation. Half of U.S. conference goers, however, will book however they like.

New research from Kalibri Labs, Prism Advisory Group, PCMA Foundation, Hilton, and NYC & Company shows that just under half of conference guests regularly book a room from an event’s hotel block. Those who don’t have a variety of reasons for booking elsewhere.

With group business for U.S. hotels slated to decline slightly over the next two years, event organizers would do well to bolster marketing promotion of block perks and reduced rates for conference attendees.

THE UNINFORMED BUYER

U.S. Convention Attendees Paid Lodging

Source: Room Block of the Future Report

The Room Block of The Future report found that those who don’t book inside a room block are generally less informed about the savings and perks of doing so, while also skewing younger. The report polled 750 U.S. business travelers on their behavior when traveling to a business convention, finding that 45 percent use a conference’s website to help plan their trip, while 24 percent use Google searches and 27 percent get recommendations on where to stay from colleagues and friends.

Overall, about half of conference attendees booked in the appropriate room block through an event organizer’s preferred booking tool, while 25 percent booked in the block but direct with the hotel or through an intermediary. The remaining 25 percent stayed at a hotel outside the block or used services like Airbnb for their lodging.

“As we released some early findings [to meeting planners], I don’t think they were that surprised by that 50 percent booking outside the block,” said Meredith Rollins, executive director of the PCMA Foundation. “What was interesting to them was the reasons why, like the importance of loyalty programs and other reasons like the perception that by booking in the block you are paying more.”
Diving deeper into traveler behavior, those who didn’t book inside the room block tended to use booking channels like typical consumers.

Two-thirds of those who booked outside the block, though, ended up paying more for their lodging than they would have if they booked through the event-approved booking service. These travelers believed booking in the room block would be more expensive, however, and that they wouldn’t be able to earn loyalty points if they booked in the block.

ON THE CORPORATE DIME

“Since a lot of these people are traveling and somebody else is paying, they felt that price perhaps wasn’t as big a driver as some of the other things,” said Mark Lomanno, senior advisor at Kalibri Labs. “Two-thirds who booked outside the block actually paid more.”

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