“Walk policies” (in other words, the propensity for hotels to oversell on certain nights and then having to turn away those with reservations) have long been a source of contention. And as travel tournaments get more active, event owners may have to deal with the problem again.
After all, the nation is hungry for travel, and is ready to take to the skies, waters, roads and rails in pursuit of getaways – meaning there’s competition for hotel space again. What are some measures to take that can help keep your athletes and families from being walked?
Travel blog The Points Guy says there is a problem from the outset. Unlike the relatively clear rules that airlines must follow when a flight is overbooked, there are no government regulations covering oversold hotels. On the contrary, many cities and states will actually prohibit a hotel from immediately evicting a guest who has overstayed their reservation, which can lead to issues for incoming guests.
According to Orchid Events, preventing such scenarios all starts with the hotel contract. What event owners need to do, they note, is make it so disadvantageous for the hotel to walk a person from that group, that they automatically choose other visitors. At the very least, it can help any walked guests from your group be treated well.
So what are some items to put into the hotel contract, as pertains to an oversell situation? First, you want to make it in the hotel's financial interest to select someone who isn’t part of your group to walk. A few options include:
- The need to relocate a guest to a comparable property of your choosing (you don’t want them sent so far out that they are unable to get to and from places easily)
- The need for the hotel to pay for any and all transportation to move that guest to the new hotel (an Uber or Lyft is good; so is a taxicab)
- If moving the guest means they will miss out on the ability to walk to, or take a shuttle or other group transit you have arranged for, to get athletes from the host hotel to the competition venue, the hotel should be required to pay to ferry them back and forth as needed
- Paying for the guest’s first night in the substitute hotel (Ouch, that can hurt a hotel, which is why they will be more likely to put your guests on the do-not-walk list).
- If your guest IS walked, make sure that any walked room nights are included in the group’s room count/usage for purposes of determining concessions, rebates, pick-up, or any contractual requirement based on room night production you may have outlined in your hotel contract.
- Partners Preceptors notes that if rooms become available at the host hotel, the walked guest should receive first right of refusal to available rooms.
- Note: In the case of the above scenario, some planners advise event owners to delineate in contracts that guests should be offered the first room that becomes available in the host hotel after they’re walked, whether it is the specified type of room in the contract (queen/queen, for example) – or something higher (a suite) – at the same cost as the room in the contract.
Ultimately, you’re trying to keep the hotel from picking your guests to be walked, by making it more difficult for them if they do.
Of course, much of this depends on your relationship with the hotel and the relative value of your event, in terms of what it brings to the hotel in room nights and additional spending in on-premises bars, restaurants and the like. Too many demands can work against you; however, right now (for better or worse, considering the year we just came through), event owners are in a strong bargaining position and hotels want the business.
But quite honestly, it’s not going to happen without some work on your part, says CVENT. You’ll need to put in the time in advance of signing that hotel contract:
“Research the hotels in the area that are near your predominant hotel or meeting location prior to your group's peak check-in date. Check their availability online and be knowledgeable of their whereabouts. In the off chance that one of your attendees is walked, you will be that much more helpful in the process. You may also be able to provide input to the hotel manager regarding location preference. Your say in the decision will ease the stress of the situation for your attendee. If you have VIPs in your group, make sure to denote their status in the rooming list or call the hotel and explain who they are. They will be that much less likely to be walked in the first place when their status is made known.”
Something else to be aware of – any large conventions or activities, including other sports events, that are occurring at the same time, that might constrict room supply. (Then there are things you can’t predict: weather events that force relocations, the World Series being held in that town, and going to a seventh game – the possibilities are endless).
Huffington Post notes that a few other strategies you can give your athletes include arriving early (late-night arrivals are more likely to result in walks) and being a member of the hotel’s loyalty program – although that’s not something you can necessarily recommend to every member of your tournament.
If you’re working with a housing company, you may not need to worry as much, according to Nic Collins of HBC Event Services.
“Housing bureaus also have national buying power. Because a housing bureau has long-term business relationships with the different hotel chains and hotel booking volume to back it up, they make it far less desirable for the hotel to walk a guest in one of their room blocks.”
Additionally, because a good housing company will have a 24/7 hotline, it can take calls and resolve issues, no matter when a person checks in and encounters trouble. It’s a great point in the favor of housing companies – as opposed to online booking sites, where very little compensation is offered; in fact, those who book direct have far less recourse when they go to check in and find out their room will be in another hotel.
In other words, the Roaming Gnome won’t get travelers nearly as far as a verified business partner and a good contract.