Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

September 01 2014

Convene E-Panel Survey 2014

By Michelle Russell

Technology, the changing economy, and growing trends — such as the sharing economy — keep chipping away at the room block, a convention and conference staple. Our latest Convene epanel surveys planners about how they’re adjusting their strategies in response.

The struggle to keep attendees in the hotel block is nothing new, but fresh developments and supply-side dynamics keep it a continually hot issue. When we chose this as the topic for the second of our quarterly epanels for this year, we decided we could use some boots-on-the-ground advice to cover all the nuances. I called on Gary Schirmacher, CMP, senior vice president of strategic account services for Experient, for help. He quickly rattled off a list of insightful questions — which we included in our survey — proving that this challenge remains at the forefront of the meetings business.

Not surprisingly, nearly 80 percent of meeting planners who responded to our survey said they have changed their room-block strategy in the last five years. Yet only about a third of them use a unified registration system that includes housing, linking both together. Even more surprising, only a small minority — 11 percent — see Airbnb and other new alternatives to hotel space as a threat to their room block. The main culprits, they say, are the same old thorns in their sides — websites that offer lower rates than the contracted block and room pirates. Here’s what else our respondents told us.

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