The Future of Room Blocks?

At a recent roundtable discussion with convention and visitors bureau executives (see page 97), the conversation touched on issues related to how discount hotel rates on the Internet have affected convention room blocks.

Randy Tanaka, sales and marketing director, Hawai'i Convention Center, pointed out, “We're seeing more contracts without attrition clauses, much more conservative blocks, and in some cases, no blocks at all.”

The block is “an animal that is going to morph into whatever it's going to. We'll watch it,” said Deborah Sexton, president/CEO, Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau. “But if the block doesn't materialize, and there are no rooms available in five years when the meeting comes to town, then it's going to be the destination's fault, not the organization's. As business increases, this is precisely what's going to happen. It's an ugly picture.”

Others noted that more hotels are trying to drive customers to their own Web sites for the lowest room rates. “This is a welcome change, and will help a bit in keeping attendees in the block,” said Reint Reinders, CEO/president, San Diego CVB.

Steve Richer, executive director, Mississippi Gulf Coast CVB, said more bureaus are “compelled” to put hotel bookings on their CVB Web site, as a service and convenience to meetings groups and as a way for CVBs to generate revenue (by keeping a commission on the booking).