Executive Director Roque Calvo had high praise for the Montreal and Seattle
bureaus. “The CVB was needed to make the deal for both meeting space and room
blocks,” he said.“We have good contacts at both centers and some of the hotels, ... but we needed the CVBs to broker both pieces. The meeting package ... has to accommo-
date many factors for the arrangements to work, and the CVBs in these instances were best equipped to negotiate all the pieces.”
The other prescription is to impose a registration
penalty intended to force attendees to book within your block. Calvo hasn’t yet done this—“gone the route of penalizing them,” he calls it—but expects that ECS will next year. “It’s under discussion, what formula would work,” Calvo said. “We’re going to give them an incentive by making them pay more registration if they don’t stay at our headquarters hotel.” This latter strategy carries its own risk—namely, that
attendees might balk at the cost of registration, and simply decide not to attend the meeting at all. And in an economy
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) measures the full economic impact of its meetings by tracking where every attendee stays —inside and outside its room blocks. Christy Richards, managing director of planning and development for NAR, explains how: Some of the audits we do ourselves, some of them
Experient staff does — but at the contracted hotels, that’s written into the contract, the right to audit, and the reporting of the numbers. Obviously if we don’t have a contract with a particular hotel, sometimes we know that there are specific groups that are staying at a particular hotel, and usually the hotels are pretty good about acknowledging that those rooms are there because of us. But again, [with] the data that we have on the registration side, it’s pretty easy to tell what other rooms were consumed in the city, besides the ones we were contracted for. We look at the registrants who did not request housing.
Because for us, you can’t get housing until you register. When you get to the housing section, they either have to select hous- ing or they have to select that they do not require housing—
and then they have to list why they do not require housing. At the end, we run a report on all of those individuals who
did not obtain housing through us, and we [cross-reference] that with their ZIP code, so we can tell the drive-in range. Then we estimate the drive-in range — about an hour-and-a-half or so is considered the maximum drive-in — so we eliminate those people. And then you have the balance of people who did not obtain housing through us, but who came to the con- ference. And you know they stayed somewhere. We apply the multiple-occupancy ratios that we know to
be true based on the other statistics of the other people who did stay through us. Then you can easily calculate how many rooms these folks used. Then we apply our normal bell curve to that, to come up with the number of room nights. All this is provided to the convention bureau in a grid, with all the supporting documentation.
where travel and professional-development budgets are under fire, and where attendance must continually be fought for, this represents a risk that must be considered. At what point do you price out your own attendees?
A New Solution? In the course of researching this story, Convene asked inter- viewees whether they had any ideas for a new, more workable model—one that would subsidize the cost of the convention center without tying it to room blocks. There weren’t many answers, apart from better educating attendees or imposing penalties during the registration process. But another, related