Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2018

Cover Story

APEX Resources Help Meeting Groups
Fight Room Block Poaching

Meeting groups continue their battles with room block “poachers” and “pirates,” but the outlook has improved with more resources at their disposal, thanks to the Convention Industry Council’s Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) Workgroup on Room Block Poaching. You’re missing out if you aren’t tapping into this toolkit of best practices, white papers, sample communications and guides that groups can use to counter companies misrepresenting themselves as a meeting’s “official” hotel room provider.

The pirate companies are smart, said workgroup member Adam Briggs, who is vice president, housing and registration, for ConferenceDirect. “They toe the line between legal and illegal, and some cross it.”

With poaching “as consistent as ever, the only way we’ll make traction on it is to address it,” said workgroup co-chair Michael Dominguez, senior vice president and chief sales officer, MGM Resorts International. That’s best done through education and awareness. “Even in the room reservation area of a hotel web site, we should make sure to warn people to book with a meeting’s host hotel or a known reputable company, or they run a risk,” he noted. “And hotels must work hand-in-hand with their leisure departments, so that pirates don’t legitimately get room blocks.”

“When I start talking about piracy, even hotel managers go, ‘Huh?’” added workgroup co-chair MaryAnne Bobrow, CAE, CMP, CMM, CHE, Bobrow Associates, Inc. “And CVBs are not necessarily up to speed on what’s involved.” That’s why “our work is not done.”

APEX formed the workgroup because the “poaching issue comes up again and again,” said Michael Owen, managing partner of EventGenuity and chair of the APEX Standards Committee. “The one thing we all agreed on was that a toolbox was needed,” Dominguez said. The solutions and practices recommended had to address the most potent impacts. That’s where some surprises emerged in the data from the workgroup’s survey of the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) community. Rather than attrition and legal fees, Owen noted, the most critical hits from poaching turned out to be:
• Planning time lost.
• Attendee dissatisfaction.
• Brand reputation tarnished.

The workgroup’s next efforts will focus on information distribution — pushing the best practices and tools out to the marketplace through live presentations, webcasts, podcasts, social media, industry association outreach, and publications and newsletters. “CIC is utilizing multiple channels to promote the toolkit…and the workgroup is working to spread the word via education at industry tradeshows,” said Kasey Connors, director of programs and services at CIC.

Ultimately, the broader discussion for meeting professionals “is how to make the housing process through official meeting channels the most advantageous and attractive for attendees, exhibitors and other meeting participants to use,” Briggs said.

Meeting professionals aren’t the only ones fighting “poachers.” The American Hotel & Lodging Association is calling attention to deceptive hotel booking sites. These trick consumers into thinking they are booking directly with a hotel. It recently applauded Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate deceptive practices of these “rogue” sites. According to AH&LA estimates, 2.5 million bookings a year mislead consumers. — Maxine Golding

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 2,500 corporations and associations through our 325 Associates globally. www.conferencedirect.com

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, the leading publication for senior meeting planners, is circulated to the clients, prospects and sales associates of ConferenceDirect, which books more than 3.87 million room nights. www.meetingmentormag.com

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