New Study Shows Traditional Room Blocks Aren't Working

June 14, 2019

What if we told you that approximately half of all delegates attending large-scale, urban conventions are booking outside the designated room block? You might go into full-on panic mode — or, nod knowingly, as this has likely affected your meetings. And this is the new reality for meeting planners, according to a study conducted by Kalibri Labs and Prism Advisory Group.

The “Room Block of the Future," released in April, aimed to better understand room booking behaviors within the business events industry. The longer-term goal is to use this data to develop a system that better suits both planner and attendee needs in the ever-evolving meetings landscape.

The study was sponsored by NYC & Company, the official tourism bureau of New York City, as well as by Hilton and the PCMA Foundation.

Kalibri Labs and Prism Advisory Group analyzed more than 2 million anonymous hotel and Airbnb guest records from conventions in Houston, New York City and San Diego between 2015 and 2018. They also surveyed a sample of U.S. business travelers who had attended a citywide convention in past.

“One of the more surprising findings from the research was the fact that almost 25 percent of attendees at large city-wide conventions actually booked their accommodations at the hotels specified in the room block, but did not go through the traditional room reservation process, resulting in them not being recognized in the room block,” said Mark Lomanno, partner with Kalibri Labs who worked on the study.

He added, “Clearly, this segment of attendees’ room booking priorities were not being met by the existing process.”

Factors such as hospitality loyalty programs, cost, room preferences, room variety and age are all significant factors in booking behaviors, according to the study.

One common attendee misperception debunked in the study is that hotel rooms within the block are more expensive than booking outside the block. In fact, the research found that two-thirds of the time, rooms within a block are actually more affordable than those outside the block.

Another key finding is that younger attendees are more likely to use alternative accommodations, with 59 percent on average booking outside the block.

The numbers in this study further exacerbate the need, already being discussed by many planners, for the current booking model to change.

“We all recognize the meetings industry is rapidly evolving, and that it’s crucial to adapt to changing customer preferences to maintain relevance,” said Frank Passanante, senior vice president with Hilton Worldwide Sales, Americas.

Jerry Cito, executive vice president of convention development for NYC & Company, agrees that the industry must adapt. This study is another catalyst for change, at least within his organization.

“The findings will help NYC & Company educate planners and suppliers on the need for flexibility, pricing transparency and potential development of a cross-loyalty program,” said Cito.

He also offered advice on how other CVBs might use the information from this “Room Block of the Future” study to help their current and future clients.

“Moving forward, CVBs should offer tools to planners to enable the creation of content marketing that clearly displays competitor pricing and value-adds by booking within the pre-arranged accommodation model for a particular convention, meeting or event,” said Cito. “Additionally, a refreshed model may emerge that offers attendees both block and campus-style booking options, providing the flexibility and options that are currently lacking.”

To download a copy of the full 80-page report, go here.

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