Hotels & Lodging

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Housing Services: Accommodations Made Easy

9 Nov, 2018

By: Jeff Lukasak

If there’s one thing we know, it’s this: you as owners and rights holders of sports events are busy. You’re being pulled in multiple directions and asked to make decisions on any number of moving parts in order to produce the best tournament, meet, race or championship possible.

We’re betting that part of your strategy includes hiring the best help possible. That means you have staff to help out with doing everything from setting up appropriate insurance coverage to making arrangements with venues to ordering trophies to having T-shirts printed.

So why are you still trying to manage all the housing yourself? Why are you trying to squeeze in time to scrutinize hotel contracts and rooming lists, examine your pickup and figure out whether people are using the official hotels? Why not delegate that to someone who specializes in it and does it all day, every day? Why not work with a housing service?

As housing service providers, we’re aware there may be a certain amount of hesitation in contracting with a new partner the first time around. And while we also know there are plenty of people who want to handle all aspects of their event themselves, the plain fact is this: a professional can do certain things more efficiently and leave the planner time to concentrate on the rest of his or her responsibilities.
Working with a housing service means working with someone who manages all aspects of your accommodations:
• Communicating with hotels in your host city near your venue
• Negotiating room blocks and desirable, competitive room rates at recognizable, familiar properties
• Negotiating low-cost (or even complimentary) rooms for staff, officials and others
• Examining contracts with hotels
• Setting up a portal to a special reservations page that interfaces with your website, allowing athletes and their families and guests to find, make reservations and pay for rooms with hotels
• Providing you with regular reports on room pickup
• Solving any last-minute (or even onsite) snags that may come up
• Providing full reports of historical data that can be used year after year to help gauge the event’s economic impact and help planners (and the appropriate sports commission) illustrate what a desirable piece of business their event is.

In short, a housing service will completely overhaul and streamline your event’s lodging process. Take working with stay-to-play, for instance. If you work with a housing service and you want to institute a stay-to-play policy for your event, it’s no problem. A link on your registration website will take your athletes to a page the housing service has set up to seamlessly interface with your event. That page will list all the hotels available through the stay-to-play arrangement. The housing service will make sure any rebates are remitted to your event as well.

Haven’t quite made the decision yet? Here’s one more thing to consider: working with a housing service means all the rooms you’ll need are blocked well in advance of the event. If the dates you have picked turn out to be an extra-busy time in your host city (maybe the local pro team is unexpectedly in the play-offs, maybe it’s a holiday weekend or maybe there’s a big business convention in town), it doesn’t matter. Your rooms are still safe. Your athletes won’t be calling you and complaining because the city is in a sell-out situation and the only hotel rooms they can find are either hundreds of miles away or hundreds of dollars above their price range. That peace of mind is a benefit you can’t even begin to put a price on.

So having made the decision to work with a housing service, here are the best tips we can give you:
Give advance notice: A good general rule of thumb is to contact your housing service and have rooms blocked a year or more in advance. Most sports events have their event host cities selected years in advance, but we know people are not likely to make their reservations until the event is closer. However, as previously mentioned, having the rooms you need protects you from facing a shortage due to unforeseen circumstances.
Provide vital statistics: Make sure your housing service knows all the details of your event: the move-in and move-out dates, the numbers of athletes, how many teams, whether athletes will be traveling with families, whether rooms will be needed for staff, officials and others, whether there will be an expo that will bring in vendors (and will also need rooms), etc. Any specific needs should also be mentioned, such as for an event with athletes who may have physical challenges, etc.

Your housing service does not need to be located in your host city. Most of the housing companies out there are working with events all over the U.S. and Canada. They’ll likely know representatives from national hotel chains and can leverage those contacts to get the best rooming options for your group in dependable, recognizable properties. However, you should also be ready to ask some questions of any housing service before you commit:

  • How long has the housing company been in business?
  • Does it have experience working with sports events? (If your athletes are part of a special population, such as youth athletes, senior athletes, athletes with special needs or anything else, you’ll want to specify this as well)
  • Have they worked in the market where your event is being held?
  • Can I get a demo of the process our attendees will use when they book a room?
  • Is the website/portal to the reservations site we will use easy to understand?
  • Is it mobile-friendly?
  • How often will I receive pickup reports and hotel rooming lists?
  • Customer service questions: If someone has a problem or a question, where do they call? What happens if they need to change or cancel their reservations? What are the customer service hours? What happens if the person calling is on-site at the tournament but it’s after regular business hours?

Get references: Ask your colleagues about services they have used. Ask the sports commission if they have recommendations. And if you’re planning to work with a specific service, you can always speak to the hotel to get their input.

Once you’ve found a good housing service to be your partner in this endeavor, it’s time to get the word out to your athletes. Again, the more advance notice you give, the better. Remind them that while you have competitive room rates at good properties, their early registration is the best way of guaranteeing they can stay where they want, at the rate they want, with the amenities they want.

The closer you get to an event, the more likely it is that the room blocks will start to fill. That means that while plenty of rooms will still be available through the housing service, a late caller may find those rooms are not in the same hotel as the rest of the team, their hotel may not have a free breakfast, or they may be a bit further from the competition venue. Therefore, it benefits everyone to make their reservations early, and to spread the word to others.

Use every channel you can to promote early registration and reservations: your website, e-mail, social media – even your mobile app, if your event has developed one. The more you get the word out, the better it is for everyone: athletes, hotels – and of course, for you.

And let’s face it: there will always be people who wait until the last minute to make their plans and then will complain about not getting to stay where they want. The more promotion you’ve done to keep people informed of your hotel availability, the less justified their complaints will be. Everyone else will be happy, and you can be satisfied that all arrangements for hotels were made professionally and efficiently.

By choosing to have a housing service handle all your accommodation needs, you’ve freed up time to do your job: running the best event possible and delivering a first-rate experience that sends your athletes home happy, no matter what the final score says. And isn’t that what it’s all about?  SDM

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Jeff Lukasak

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