Much has changed in the tournament world, thanks (or no thanks) to 2020. But some things have not and one of these is the need for athletes to have a safe and comfortable place to lay their heads at the end of the day.
If you are not really hotel-negotiation-savvy (or if you are like many event owners and do not have the time to devote to hunting for accommodations), your best bet is to work with a housing company. Here are a few reasons why you should:
Housing Companies Do All the Heavy Lifting
A housing company negotiates room rates and gets you the room block you need at the best rates available, secures any meeting space you need, works to establish comp rooms for staff or officials and (if needed) establishes the stay-to-play policy. The housing partner will also handle all hotel questions or reservation changes/special requests that may come up from participants in the process – again, something you won’t have to do.
Housing Companies Make Stay-to-Play Easier AND Streamline Hotel Reservations
Once it negotiates contracts with the hotel (or hotels) of your choosing, the housing company can provide a link for you to post on your event website. This link will take participants to the list of hotels and will show the room rates. Because companies use national brands of hotels, visitors will find they are faced with recognizable, familiar properties and you will have peace of mind, knowing they are comfortable with their choices. If you are using stay-to-play, this system lessens the chance of people going out of network to find rooms.
Housing Companies Can Provide Real-Time Data on Room Use
A housing bureau will be able to generate live hotel pick-up, client revenue and comp room reports, which should always be available at your request. That means you can find out whether you should be sending out reminders to participants to book hotel rooms.
Housing Companies Listen to What You Want
If your preference is for a hotel with suite-style accommodations, such as with two queen beds and a couch that folds out into an extra bed (something seen as incredibly desirable in hotels for traveling teams), the housing company can locate those properties for you, rather than you having to call around or do research on the Internet. Want to be near your competition venue(s)? The company can help with that too. If you want properties in a variety of price points, again, all you need to do is specify.
Housing Companies Know the Area
Your housing partner does not need to be in your host city to be knowledgeable about it, nor to have good inside information on it. Many hotels can look good on paper (or these days, on their website) – but might not be great choices for your group. Maybe the neighborhood is not as safe, or the hotel is harder to access because it’s out-of-the-way, or perhaps there is a lot of construction in the area. Your partner will find out all these things in advance and help you avoid the pitfalls.
Housing Companies Are on Your Side
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, it is easier for them to leverage their brand to gain cost-efficient room rates and contract liability-free room blocks. This clout generally helps to grease the hotel contracting gears more than the single planner can. And they can do it all in less time, with far less margin for error.
In the event an individual in your group has a problem with a room or reservation or encounters difficulty upon check-in, the housing company can help address the issue – without having to pull the event owner or a staff member away from the important work of actually running the event.
Now that we have covered the advantages of a housing company, it is time for you to find the right one for your event. Accordingly, there are some things you need to do, starting now:
Well in advance of your event (one year out or more is ideal but in general, as soon as you select your city and your competition venue), you should be thinking about accommodations – and not just thinking about them but planning for them.
Contact the housing bureau and discuss the event – the number of teams/participants you expect to be hosting that are traveling in, the location of the venue(s), historical data (if available) including hotel stay patterns or any other particulars, such as the type of room preferences between staff, team, athletes, media etc. (rooms with two queen beds are popular with teams, as are suite-style properties which also feature microwaves, fridges, pull-out sofas and other amenities). If you are looking for properties with a breakfast buffet, remember that availability will depend on the location, as well as the policies set by each hotel brand.
Specify if you have specific needs regarding discounted or complimentary rooms for officials, free parking or anything else. These are all common factors and should be negotiated on your behalf. Having all the details can help cater the selection and end result for your group’s needs. (In many cases, it helps to make a list of what you need in advance).
Remember that the sooner you can iron out these details, the better off your event will be. Now that travel is back, we can expect to see rising demand for hotel and convention center space, as well as rising demand for other venues. You do not want to book too late and have all the good rooms in your area taken by another event.
If you have never worked with a housing company, you will need to line up that partner. Here are some helpful tips that can help you find a company that is the right fit for you and for your event.
Get References and Check Online Reviews
Ask your colleagues about services they have used and do a quick Google search online of the potential company. See what their consumers are saying. Ask the sports commissions if they have recommendations. And if you are planning to work with a specific service, you can always check the references they can provide.
Ask the Right Questions
Make sure your attendees will be well taken care of by the housing company. For example, if someone has a problem or a question regarding their room or their reservation, who 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 is after regular business hours? The right housing partner should have a solution for all of this to make sure your attendees will always be looked after on the hotel side.
Get The Word Out
Once you have found a good housing service to be your partner in this endeavor, it is time to get the word out to your athletes, friends, families and any potential spectators. Again, the more advance notice you give, the better. Remind them that while you have competitive room rates at good properties, early registration/hotel bookings are the absolute best way of guaranteeing they can get their choice of hotel, at the rate that works best, with the amenities they desire.
While athletes and their families will absolutely remember who won or who lost during a big tournament, they will also remember where they stayed. That experience will shape a huge part of their opinion of the organization and may help them decide whether to come back in future years. That is why, increasingly, event owners are choosing to work with housing; in fact, we rarely see people go back to trying to do it themselves once they see the advantages of integrating a strategic housing partner. SDM