There is nothing more frustrating than having all of your calculated hard work in securing hotel rooms for your event thrown off by a handful of unscrupulous organizations targeting your attendees. These organizations will tell lies, use pressure tactics and misrepresent themselves all just to dupe your attendees into booking a room, often a room that doesn’t even exist. These organizations affect your room contracting liability, your revenue, and potentially the safety of your guests. Read on to see what room poaching is, how it works, and what to do about it.
Room poaching, also known as room block piracy, is the practice of unauthorized organizations contacting attendees before an event and persuading them into making a reservation unknowingly around the official event room block. Poachers will often dupe attendees into pre-paying for their hotel rooms and may even rob them of their money, leaving them high and dry without accommodations for the event.
Common Room Poacher Tactics
Room poachers toe the line between legal and illegal. They often portray being fully authorized to sell hotel rooms on behalf of your organization, saying they are calling on behalf of [insert your event name here]. Typically, they call attendees directly and use pressure tactics and hard selling techniques. Common lines we’ve heard are “If you don’t book your room right now the rate will increase” and “The hotel is almost sold out, you need to book today to secure a room.” They almost always require prepayment of hotel rooms.
As guests book outside the official event hotels, you become liable for under-performing room blocks. This can result in attrition fees and will harm your ability to negotiate future contracts with that property. You have unhappy attendees that are booked into the wrong hotel, typically ones that are lower-caliber and far away from the event venue and host hotel. Even worse, you have some attendees that completely lose out financially; they show up at their hotel and no reservation exists in their name. Most damaging is that your brand reputation is seriously harmed.
8 Ways to Protect Your Event Room Blocks from Poachers:
Clearly state the official housing providers. Create a spotlight on the webpage above the booking link that specifies the only valid methods to book for the event. State that all other methods may result in cancellation of registration.
Provide strong registration incentives, such as discounts on registration when staying at one of the preferred hotels. Consider packaged options where attendees can book registration and hotel stays in one bundle, ensuring it’s within the block.
Protect registration lists. Do not publish lists of attendees and/or exhibitors as poachers will use this to their advantage. If needing to offer this option, use password protected lists to ensure only those with the correct password can view it. Another option is to include false names of internal employees to “fish out” poachers.
Know the exhibitors. Poachers can sometimes buy small booths to obtain attendee lists then cancel once they have attained this information. Ensure due diligence on who is exhibiting.
Work with your hotel partners. Ask that they inform you if they receive blocks over the event dates. You can include clauses in the agreements that omit any negotiations with competitor companies or specific organizations over the event dates.
Having a lowest rate guarantee in contracts can deter poachers as they would not be able to undercut your rates.
Setup Google Adwords, using the event name and keywords. This will allow the official event booking link to appear on one of the first placements on Google. Room poachers have been known to create fake websites and use SEO to appear in a higher rank than the official event website.
Consult legal counsel. If poachers are using the event logo or trademarked name, they are in violation of intellectual property law. Most cease-and-desist letters will get them to back down.
Staying vigilant is the key. Be aware and follow the steps above to protect yourself and your event attendees. Learn more about room poaching in The Book on Housing, a free ebook that will shed clarity around online housing and share best practices on how to successfully execute housing for your next event.