Lodging: Innovative Approaches for Managing Sports Room Blocks
31 Dec, 2008By: Allan Judah
Talk to any event organizer, rights holder, or event planner and the subject of room block management, specifically attrition management, will eventually come to the forefront. With the emergence of online discounting and blocking of multiple rooms for speculative purposes, fulfilling and managing sport related room blocks has become a task more difficult and nerve wracking than the event itself. Besides the financial repercussions of attrition, many of the concessions negotiated in the contract such as complimentary rooms, complimentary meeting room space, discounted food and beverage, rebates, etc. are all tied to performance clauses. Therefore, if not handled properly, an area that was once considered a revenue source very quickly becomes a very costly expense item.
Due to varying factors, the managing of sports room blocks have a tendency to be more difficult than normal convention related room blocks. The driving factor is the speculative attendee that is associated with a sports room block. A convention attendee will know months in advance their intent to attend. The event has been budgeted for and unless unforeseen circumstances dictate, the attendee will fulfill their intent on attending the convention and occupying the subsequent booked room nights. However, the intent of the sports event attendee will normally hinge on such factors such as actual qualification to the event or the qualification to the event of a particular participant. Therefore, the non-qualification of a particular athlete or participant can lead to the cancellation of numerous room nights at a very late date, depending on the qualification date. Event organizers can relate to being told their room block is sold out weeks leading up to the event only to be handed an attrition bill from the hotel after an event due to numerous last minute cancellations.
However, there are management approaches that will make the process more manageable.
Be conservative when you contract the block. The inclination will be to block more rooms in order to accommodate the initial rush of reservations. However, it is more prudent to take a conservative approach and book rooms based on past history. In addition, have a good overflow plan to compliment the contracted block.
Make host hotel central point of activities. Attendees will want to be where the "action" is happening. No one likes to be left out. If possible, post results at the host hotel in addition to opening and closing parties if applicable.
Negotiate group rate as lowest rate. Negotiate as part of the contract that there can be no lower rate at the hotel during the dates of the event. The hotel will normally exclude rates with Priceline.com and a few other online entities but these rates account for a very small percentage of per night rooms.
Reconcile with the hotel on weekly and then daily basis through end of the event. Ensure that rooms are not being double booked. Tendencies are that coaches or representatives will book a room and the individual will follow up with another reservation. This is a killer and eats up rooms very quickly. Do daily reconciliations during the event to correct any problems on the spot.
Know where overflow attendees are located and be prepared to move them to host hotel quickly. Once qualifications happen, cancellations will transpire quickly and in mass. Have a plan to move the overflow attendees into the host hotel to repopulate the block.
Because of budget restraints and staff shortages, many sports organizations are forming partnerships with travel management companies to manage the room blocks and take the burden off of the event staff. With sophisticated tracking software, enhanced reconciliation capabilities, and accurate historical data, these management companies are allowing sports organizations to maximize rebates and concessions and create good relationships and goodwill with hotels. Once hotels know an organization comes with a good history of filling blocks, negotiations for other concessions such as "no attrition clauses" come much easier.