PCMA Foundation-funded study reveals booking trends of large-scale, urban convention attendees

PCMA Convening Leaders in Pittsburgh

In a study collaboratively commissioned by Hilton, NYC & Company and PCMA Foundation, it was found that half of all delegates attending large-scale, urban conventions are circumventing the established room-reservation process and booking accommodations on their own.

The Room Block of the Future study came about as the three organisations sought 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 in an ever-evolving meetings landscape.

PCMA Convening Leaders in Pittsburgh

Kalibri Labs and Prism Advisory Group were lead research consultants on the project and identified the behaviours and motivations that are 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 partner at Kalibri Labs, Mark Lomanno: “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. “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.”

In addition, hospitality loyalty programmes, cost, room preferences and age are significant factors in booking behaviours 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.

The Room Block of the Future study is just one of the many research projects supported by PCMA Foundation, which is committed to empowering individuals and advancing innovations that fuel the future of business events.

“Through the generous support of PCMA members and partners, the Foundation has provided more than US$800,000 over the past four years to fund education and research projects to help advance the business events industry,” said 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.

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