What are the benefits of room blocks for housing companies?

Buying power. Housing companies bring business from a variety of clients to hundreds of hotels. They are able to use this leverage to secure the lowest possible rates for clients. Housing companies can monitor online rates and if lower rates are found, they are applied to the rest of the rooms in the block.

Umbrella of protection. Housing companies are the central point of contact for booking, disputes, and all housing-related concerns. They serve as advocates for the association and its attendees, protecting them against being “walked” if a hotel is overbooked. They also have safeguards to protect associations from unauthorized housing companies who contact attendees and exhibitors to book rooms for them only to scam them out of their money.

Value packages. “We try to create a better package,” says Keri Kelly, senior director of client services, onPeak, a Chicago-based housing company. “We look at hotel room rates, but also, what more value can we bring to it?” Packaging in added value, like free Internet in hotel rooms, has become a much more important part of the negotiations, says Kelly. Many housing companies are attempting to deliver these additional perks to entice attendees to book inside the block.

Eases the burden. For large citywide conventions, housing companies are mandatory, says Bill Drohan, president, Drohan Management Group, a Reston, Va.–based association manager. “Housing is extremely difficult, time-consuming, complex, and requires a significant level of expertise,” says Tim Moses, CMP, director, meetings and conventions, American Academy of Dermatology, Schaumburg, Ill. Using a housing company allows AAD to take advantage of their expertise in managing housing blocks and frees up association staff to focus on other tasks. It provides attendees with the convenience of having everything in one centralized location.

Gathering data for audits. Housing companies have relationships with hundreds of hotels, so they are more easily able to gather housing data from the various hotels, which helps with room-block audits. Post-event audits are important to capture attendees who stayed in the contracted hotel but booked outside the block.

Book now, pay later. Many housing companies don’t require any upfront payment for hotel rooms. They also allow attendees to cancel or modify reservations without penalty. Online travel companies often require full prepayment and have restrictions on canceling discounted rates.

Integrated approach. Housing companies integrate their systems with the hotels and registration companies to create a one-stop shop for attendees when they register for the meeting and book rooms. The result is a much more seamless and convenient experience for the attendee, says Kelly.

On-site assistance. Housing companies assist meeting organizers by coming on site to answer attendee questions and handle requests and problems as they arise.

Top technology. Housing companies such as onPeak use sophisticated technology to manage housing blocks. Groups can book room blocks of any size in real-time. Managers can then fully manage their block online by updating reservations for the entire block, making room assignments and finessing dates, or allowing each group member to update their reservation, change payment details or dates.