How to Fend Off Airbnb to Fill Room Blocks

By Maria Carter, April 17, 2015

As business travelers look for ways to cut costs, they’re turning to the sharing economy to meet lodging needs. Travel management platform Rocketrip found that by booking through Airbnb instead of hotels, employees save 41 percent, or an average of $102 per night. While Go Get It Events & Travel owner Jenifour Jones says some people will never go the house-share route unless there’s a butler (“They want room service,” she says), others, like Greg Jenkins, partner at Los Angeles-based Bravo Productions, understand the appeal of private rentals.

The appeal for Airbnb is cashing in on an industry worth $292.3 billion last year, as estimated by Global Business Travel Association. While the upstart hotel challenger is opening doors to business travelers (it added a business travel portal last year), planners are going to have to work that much harder to keep attendees on-site. So, how can planners entice attendees to stay on-site? Not only does it promote better engagement and networking among attendees, there are contract demands that need to be met. Here are five actionable tips to help you fulfill your room block requirements:

1. Look at historical data and trends.
Consider your group’s demographics, says Jenkins. Are your attendees paying out of pocket? If so, they’ll be less likely to shell out for rooms at the downtown Westin. Jenkins recommends surveying attendees at least nine months prior to the conference to determine their hotel preferences before putting a block on rooms. “The hotel has to be tailored to fit your audience,” he stresses.

2. Be conservative.
Jones recommends clients block out only 80 percent of the total rooms they estimate filling. If you end up needing more and have a good relationship with the hotel, it will be open to renegotiating higher numbers, she says.

3. Negotiate that contract.
“Make sure your contract says if the hotel is sold out, meaning they can turn the rooms [you’ve blocked but haven’t filled], you are not responsible and won’t be charged an attrition fee,” says Jones.

4. Play up the networking aspect.
Airbnb accommodations have no lobby, hence no place to bump into your next big client. In a recent Experience Institute survey of 7,000 people, nearly three-fourths of all respondents said the opportunity for social interaction is an important part of attending events.

5. Offer incentives.
Both Jenkins and Jones believe incentives—like discounted early bird room rates, free or cheap hotel parking and complimentary shuttles—can sweeten the deal. “Have your events become known for awesome welcome bags that are only given in people’s hotel rooms,” suggests Jones.

Maria Carter is a New York-based business writer and editor. Contact her at maria@mariacarter.net.

Photo credit: Cavan Images

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