Many events opt not to offer preferred accommodation, but creating a block hotel booking can actually be an important part of the event experience for your attendees. It makes their lives and planning a little easier and can add value to your event in multiple ways. The key to making a hotel blocking work is to encourage a high rate of room reservation.
Why Guests Skip the Hotel Blocking Option
According to a report from PCMA, only half of event attendees book preferred accommodation via the event organizer’s reservation system. A further 25% book at the preferred hotel, but don’t use the event system to do so. And 25% book alternate, non-preferred accommodation. Overall, 50% of people don’t use the event’s reservation system, meaning they don’t book within the hotel block.
Why do so many attendees choose to avoid an event’s preferred accommodation option? The most common reasons are:
- Cost. Many attendees mistakenly believe that reserving hotel rooms within the event block is a more expensive option. But in 66% of cases, hotel blocking is more affordable.
- Loyalty. Attendees who are members of a loyalty program with a different hotel chain are less likely to book within a hotel block.
- Lack of room choice. Many business travelers have room preferences and book hotel accommodations accordingly. Hotel blocking is often perceived as offering less choice, so people with rigid preferences sometimes avoid it.
- Age. Younger attendees often prefer alternative options such as AirBnb.
Is It Still Worth It to Offer Preferred Accommodation?
If many attendees prefer to book their own rooms, is it still worth it to offer the hotel blocking option?
The simple answer is, yes. If you’re booking for a small in-house event, making a block booking is simply a money-saver that may allow you to get a few small perks on the side too. For large conferences, trade shows, and other industry events, offering preferred accommodation is something many attendees will have come to expect.
Block-booking accommodations can make attending an event more convenient for guests who opt for reserved rooms. Maybe you can negotiate check-in or check-out times that are a little more forgiving. Attendees will have more leeway to choose a different room. Or perhaps you can negotiate free Wi-Fi and other perks that enhance the event and increase attendee satisfaction.
Of interest to larger events in particular is the fact that hotel blocking adds to your event’s total economic value. And the higher your total value, the more leverage you have for booking favorable rates. This goes not just for hotel rooms, but for other hotel and city-wide services. The more money your event injects into the local economy, the more you can keep costs down via partnerships with local services, amenities, and attractions. This allows you to offer attendee perks that help make your event bigger, better, and more popular. And if you’re able to capitalize on your leverage year after year, you can continue expanding and improving the event.
To get the best return from offering preferred accommodation, it’s important that you’re willing to negotiate. If you can negotiate a contract with a low attrition rate and other favorable terms—and then encourage a high in-block reservation rate—you’ll be in the best possible position to negotiate in successive years.
How to Encourage Attendees to Use Your Hotel Room Block
1. No Room, No Entry
The most obvious way to get people to book in your hotel block is to, more or less, not give them a choice. Or to put it another way: Guests can’t register for your event unless they book their accommodations in your hotel block.
This can be effective if your event is a must-attend for your target audience. But for other events it may simply mean that some people choose not to attend. For instance, this can be an effective strategy for an in-house corporate event. It makes sense for everyone to stay at the same hotel for this kind of event. But for a small trade show or conference, a big chunk of your target demographic may be locals who don’t need to book accommodation. In this case, the “no room, no entry” strategy is best avoided.
2. Highlight the Benefits, and Counter the Negatives
Reserving hotel rooms via your event hotel block can have a number of benefits for attendees. Not everyone will be aware of those benefits, so it’s important to highlight them on the registration page:
- Competitive room prices. In two-thirds of cases, the preferred room rate is the best deal attendees can secure—they just don’t realize it. If your room rate is the lowest, this information should be front and center.
- Full payment isn’t required right away. This means your attendees can secure both their tickets and their accommodations without having to pay the full price immediately.
- They can change their reservation relatively easily. If they book elsewhere, it might require more effort, and perhaps even a change of hotel. Booking within your hotel block means they can get it done quickly online.
- Better networking opportunities. Staying in the official event hotel puts attendees closer to the action, and gives them more chances to make new connections.
In addition, it’s also important to counteract the perceived negative aspects of staying at the preferred hotel. Offer perks or discounts to counteract the perception that preferred hotel rooms are more expensive. And make sure there’s a good variety of room types in the block you book. For travelers with particular room preferences, this might be the difference that gets them to reserve preferred accommodations.
3. Offer a Discount
Offering attendees a registration discount if they book within your hotel blocking can be effective. But you don’t want to reduce your ticket prices to the point where your event ROI is unprofitable. The solution is to simply increase the ticket price by the same amount as the discount you plan to offer. Alternatively, you can offer two ticket prices—one with a hotel booking and one without—rather than framing the difference as a discount.
4. Provide Perks
If you prefer not to offer a discount, there are plenty of options for offering perks to encourage reserving hotel rooms with your contracted hotel. PMCA’s study clearly identified the perks attendees are particularly interested in:
- A discount on their registration fee
- Event-related benefits such as tickets to invitation-only networking events
- Hotel-related benefits such as dining dollars or complimentary services
Discounts for local services and attractions are another option that guests may enjoy. And these are valuable in another way too. People are more likely to use amenities and services they have a discount for, and the money they spend is injected into the local community. The more economic value your event brings to the hotel and the city, the better your negotiating platform is for future events.
5. Gamify It
Gamification is an effective way to encourage participation at events, especially virtual and hybrid events. But it can work here too, with a bit of tweaking. To gamify hotel bookings, set up a system where attendees who book with your contracted hotel earn points for their company. The company or companies that earns the most points then receive some extra-special rewards during the event. For instance, they might earn hotel upgrades or free services, or a preferred exhibit location on the trade show floor.
6. Ask Attendees
If your hotel block isn’t selling well initially, it might be helpful to survey attendees to find out why they’re choosing other accommodation options. Maybe people aren’t aware your room rates are competitive, or maybe people are flocking to another hotel for loyalty rewards.
Whatever the reason, conducting a poll gives you the chance to remedy the situation. For instance, you might try and secure additional perks to encourage more hotel bookings. Or retool your registration page to highlight existing perks more effectively. At the very least, conducting a poll gives you insights that will be useful for the next event.
Block Booking Works, If You Sell the Benefits Effectively
Offering preferred accommodation is an important part of many events, both small and large. And even if some guests make their own bookings, it’s still an important service to offer. A large chunk of your attendees will appreciate having this process simplified for them. By offering a few carefully selected perks, you’ll be able to sell out the hotel blocking in no time.