Research from Hilton, NYC & Company and PCMA Foundation claims that approximately half of all delegates attending large-scale, urban conventions are circumventing the established room-reservation process and booking accommodation on their own. The research findings add fuel to the debate around the hotel room block model.
The three organisations funded the ‘Room Block of the Future’ study to better understand room booking behaviours within the business events industry, with the hope of developing a delivery system that better suits planner and attendee needs.
Kalibri Labs and Prism Advisory Group were lead research consultants on the project which identified behaviours and motivations driving this decision-making. They jointly analysed more than two million anonymous hotel and Airbnb guest records from conventions held in Houston, New York City and San Diego between 2015 and 2018, in addition to surveying a sample of US business travellers who have attended a city-wide convention.
According to Mark Lomanno, Partner at Kalibri Labs, “One of the more surprising findings from the research was the fact that almost 25% 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 recognised in the room block. Clearly, this segment of attendees room booking priorities were not being met by the existing process.”
Elaine Hendricks, Partner at Prism Advisory Group, added, “It was very unexpected to learn from the survey of city-wide attendees just how much it bothers them to lose control of their hotel-booking process — being generally unable to do the things they normally do in hotel bookings, such as accessing their loyalty benefits. It’s this desire for control that creates frustration and prompts a quarter of them to make transient bookings in convention hotels to get what they want.”
“Partnering with PCMA Foundation and NYC & Company on this project was a natural collaboration as we are all committed to innovating within the room block space and know true innovation will only occur after understanding the buying behaviours and needs of the guest or conference attendee. We all recognise 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, Hilton Worldwide Sales, Americas.
Research findings could profoundly shift how cities, hospitality organisations and business events professionals organise meetings and conferences.
“The results of Room Block of the Future reflect a shift in the industry that CVB’s must adapt to,” said Jerry Cito, Executive Vice-President, Convention Development at NYC & Company CVB. “The findings will help NYC & Company educate planners and suppliers on the need for flexibility, pricing transparency and potential development of a cross-loyalty programme.”
Loyalty, cost, choice and age
Hospitality loyalty programs, cost, room preferences and age are significant factors in booking behaviors and consumer trends, the study found.
A common attendee misperception — affecting booking patterns across different sizes and types of conferences – is that hotel rooms within the block are more expensive. However, the research proves that in a majority of cases (66%), rooms within the block are more affordable.
Room variety, or lack thereof, is another factor affecting booking patterns. Among many business travellers, a perceived rigidness and the inability to choose a preferred room type played a role.
Overall, younger attendees (59%) are more likely to use alternative accommodations.
Advancing the industry
The Room Block of the Future study is one many research projects supported by PCMA Foundation, which has provided $800,000 over the past four years to fund education and research projects to help advance the business events industry, according to Meredith Rollins, PCMA Foundation’s Executive Director. “Part of our mission is to collaborate with industry partners, thought leaders, and academics to challenge current thinking and models; and all of the organisations that aligned to fund and execute this Room Block project is a great example of the value that can be created when we work together.