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Half of US delegates source own accommodation, study finds

Almost half (49 per cent) of US conference-goers bypass the ‘room block’ model and source their own accommodation, according to new research funded by PCMA Foundation, NYC & Company and Hilton.

Meredith Rollins, executive director at PCMA Foundation told M&IT: “The room block model has served our industry for decades as a tool to manage room supply and demand for a conference, but it has always been a pressure point between stakeholders.

“We’ve had many town halls and sessions on the topic with industry professionals debating the merits of the model. Through the PCMA Foundation’s research arm, we wanted to take a unique approach by understanding how attendees make decisions on where and how they book accommodation and what factors influence them.”

The “Room Block of the Future” research was undertaken by Kalibri Labs and Prism Advisory Group. It polled 750 US business travellers who had attended a city-wide convention between 2015 and 2018, to find out more about their attitudes towards choosing accommodation at business conventions.

The research identified that 25 per cent of attendees booked rooms in hotels specified in the room block, but did not make the booking through the established room reservation process, therefore not registering in the room block data.

The remaining 24 per cent stayed in accommodation not included in the room block hotels. “Clearly, this segment of attendees’ room booking priorities were not being met by the existing process,” said Mark Lomanno, a partner at Kalibri Labs.

One of the main reasons given by convention attendees in the research was the lack of control they had in choosing their hotel room.

Elaine Hendricks, partner at Prism Advisory Group, said: “It was very unexpected to learn from the survey of city-wide attendees just how much it bothers them to lose control of their hotel-booking process — being generally unable to do the things they normally do in hotel bookings, such as accessing their loyalty benefits.

“It’s this desire for control that creates frustration and prompts a quarter of them to make transient bookings in convention hotels to get what they want.”

The Room Block of the Future research also listed loyalty, cost, choice and age as significant factors for causing the increasedtrend of convention attendees booking their own accommodation.

Some survey participants stated they believed room block options to be more expensive. However, the research proved this to be a common misconception as 66 per cent of rooms within the block were found to be cheaper than accommodation booked independently.

On the factor of age, the research found that of the 49 per cent of attendees who booked outside of the traditional room block method, 20 per cent were likely to be under the age of 40. While 13 per cent of event attendees were discovered to be party crashers who had not registered for the programme at all, therefore skirting around the research findings.

Lomanno told M&IT: “Younger attendees are more likely to choose alternate accommodations because they desire to have an “experience” in the city as well as their accommodations.”

The purpose of the research was to find out what business travellers seek and help the meetings industry to accommodate these desires.

Jerry Cito, executive vice president, convention development at NYC & Company, the official destination marketing organisation and visitors bureau for the City of New York, said: “The results of ‘Room Block of the Future’ reflect a shift in the industry that CVB’s (convention and visitor bureaus) must adapt to.”

“The findings will help NYC & Company educate planners and suppliers on the need for flexibility, pricing transparency and potential development of a cross-loyalty programme.”