This article in USA Today outlines the steep hotel rate increases we've all been noticing in many major U.S. cities this year—and how they're predicted to continue rising, albeit not quite as steeply, in 2007. This is, of course, driving transient and individual business travelers to look outside the usual chains when booking their rooms, but I wonder if it won't drive some meeting attendees to do likewise?
While I stayed at an extremely budget-conscious hotel during a recent trip to a Baltimore meeting because everything at the headquarters hotel and everything else nearby was sold out or ridiculously expensive ($400+ and/or a three- to five-night minimum stay? In Baltimore? I still don't get it), I would seriously consider returning to it the next time I'm in town for a meeting. For less than half the cost, a little inconvenience was worth it. I doubt I'm alone in this one, especially since so many companies are squeezing every dime these days when it comes to paying for meetings-related travel expenses. For association meetings, this could be especially harmful to the bottom line if enough people decide to say "enough is enough" and stay somewhere cheaper than what you could get in negotiated rates.
Will it drive more association meetings to smaller, less expensive cities? Especially now that so many have some pretty good convention centers, this could end up being pretty good for the little guys. Unless, of course, they start raising their rates, too. We shall see.
P.S. Sorry for the silence this week. It's been crazy busy around here lately. I'll try to catch up over the next several days.