You’ve selected a host city for your next sporting event, and now there’s just one question. Where will your attendees stay? What are key steps you should take in pursuing lodging? O.K. That’s two questions. But don’t worry! Here are the 10 things you need to know about locating and negotiating hotel accommodations in your host city.
1: Engage the Local Sports Commission
Connecting with the host destination’s sports commission or convention visitors bureau (CVB) is the very first and most important thing you do to start the event organization process. With the help of a CVB or sports commission, a deep understanding of the local hotel scene is already in place even before you set foot in your host city.
These local organizations will help you identify vendors, transportation, permits and, of course, hotel stay options. Sports commissions and convention visitors bureaus work closely with the hotels in the community and will help kickstart and facilitate your accommodations requests. Typically, to begin, clients provide the CVB with information based on event needs. The CVB then contacts their hotel partners, providing those hotels with your accommodations necessities to obtain pricing and get the ball rolling.
2: Realistically Provide Information
Though event attendance and attendee needs are not always an exact science, you should still take steps to realistically provide information on the number of rooms you will need for what dates. Before speaking with the hotel, honestly determine if your dates and/or your patterns are truly fixed or flexible.
If you have a history of your event, give that data to the hotel. Offer to share feedback from your previous host cities’ hotels as well as from those host cities’ CVBs or sports commissions. This will not only give the host city feedback on the local impact and experiences from your event, but also will ensure the hotel and CVB are clear on your needs and expectations.
3: Know Your Target Area
Have a good idea of where you want the hotel rooms to be in the host city. Are you hoping for accommodations within walking distance of your main event space? Would you prefer your headquarters hotel to be nearer to the airport for easier arrival and departure? Will your attendees be arriving by motorcoach, making ample and spacious parking more of a priority?
These are all factors that go into the decision of where to base your lodging. And remember that the local sports commission can help you think through this and provide area recommendations.
4: Know Your Budget
Your budget includes, but also goes beyond, a simple nightly rate. How much are your athletes willing to pay for hotel rooms? Do you have a range for the hotel property to work within? Will you need a commissionable rate? Will you need a rebate added?
Additionally, remember to keep COVID-19 precautions and protocols in mind for your budget. Will attendees require COVID-19 testing that event organizers need to provide, and will renting a dedicated space in the hotel be necessary? In the event of a positive COVID-19 test, what are the city’s and hotel’s quarantine protocols and what fees are involved? Keep such possibilities in mind to ensure an emergency does not break your budget.
5: Stay Flexible
Be conscious of the requests and concessions you make and allow yourself to remain flexible with those gives and takes. If a hotel offers something you really don’t need to make your event a success, see if you can trade that item for something you really do need. Keep in mind that your host city’s CVB has created an understanding of your needs as the client and an understanding of the hotel’s needs as a trusted partner. They will work to balance both of your needs, creating a win-win situation. Remaining flexible will help your CVB with that balance so all parties benefit from hosting your event.
6: Plan for Meeting Space and F&B
Many hotels offer meeting space able to accommodate smaller receptions or board meetings, while others can accommodate grand banquets or possibly your entire event. Other hotels may not have onsite meeting space; however, they or the CVB has built relationships with nearby facilities to offer event space. Be clear about your gathering needs and preferences for your attendees, spectators and event management team.
Food & Beverage has similar considerations. Many hotels offer onsite dining, whether in a hotel restaurant or through special event catering. Other hotels may not have onsite restaurants or catering; however, they or their CVB may have relationships with nearby eateries or local caterers. Hotels may also require exclusive use of their onsite dining services or preferred list of caterers. Be aware of the requirements, but also do not be afraid to ask if the requirements can be altered to meet a specific event need.
7: Consider a Housing or Reservation Platform
Many events rely on housing or reservation platforms to streamline the process of reserving guest rooms. Considerations for using a platform requires key back-end coordination with the hotel and your attendees. When using such platforms, make sure guests and the hotel understand the correct process to help prevent double or lost bookings.
Some CVBs may have a housing or reservation platform that clients can use, and it varies whether this is a free or paid service for event organizers as well as if platform use is subject to commission. Be sure to ask about reservation platform options that can be provided by the CVB, the hotel, or a trusted partner organization of either entity.
8: Ask for Zero Attrition
This is a charge that is applied to the final hotel billing if you do not meet your guaranteed room reservations. Attrition adds up due to lack of awareness or lack of management. Situations like this occurred often during the pandemic, as attendees cancelled due to safety concerns, travel restrictions or illness.
The best way to avoid such situations is to ask for zero attrition and see if the hotel will work with you. The CVB and sports commission can help you with this negotiation. Given the pandemic, there is a greater understanding of event attendance uncertainty. It cannot hurt to ask for zero attrition when choosing hotels.
9: Be Responsive
Remember, there is no such thing as overcommunication in event management. Be responsive to the hotel and CVB representatives, so that all parties are on the same page and making the right choices for your event.
CVB and hotel staff are there to help you make your event a success, and the best way for them to do that is to keep the lines of communication open. Stay connected with the CVB and hotel, from initial negotiations through to post-event debrief.
10: Take Advantage of Free Services
Know that most CVB and sports commission services are available to you for free. Take advantage of these free offerings for a priceless experience for attendees and spectators. Each city’s sports commissions offer different services, but many will assist with volunteers and publicity as well.
Sports Milwaukee, for example, offers several free services. A popular offering is welcome letters from local officials included in attendee welcome packets or event programs. We also provide special collateral and swag. Our communications team assists with sharing or writing an event press release for distributing to media. That event publicity extends to social media posts from our CVB accounts. We also provide volunteers for events when needed. Never hesitate to ask what you need from the CVB or sports commission.
Keeping these 10 tips in mind during your sports event organization and management will make you – and your attendees – rest easy in your host destination. SDM