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The Internet & Meeting Space

Posted on September 14, 2006

By Bill Heaney

While the Internet has had very positive effects for hotels and meeting planning, it has also created some "new" issues.

When I first began planning programs in large hotels with enormous amounts of public and meetings-dedicated space, I assumed that this space was part of the hotel and "no extra expense" for the hotel to provide. Having a room for a reception and another for gathering was never an issue. In time, as we all know, things changed, and now planners’ expectations are that using the hotel’s space will cost something, either a fee, the purchase of catering, or both.

As the hotelier, there are definite views towards space and that is a revenue driver. The revenue is earned directly or by using the space to draw more customers to use sleeping rooms (usually both). In fact, for hotels, the return on investment in the public/meeting space is a strong consideration of viability for the project. When planning a meeting or event, this is always a negotiating point: how much for the space and what is the relationship to sleeping rooms?

The internet has provided a way for hotels to sell hotel rooms, albeit transparently, because when a hotel is fortunate enough to book a large meeting and the competition hasn't, a potential issue comes into play. When a hotel books a meeting, the rates reflect the use of the hotel’s total space so they, in fact, will sometimes be higher priced than the few rooms that are offered as a discount on the internet. And just because one hotel in a market has booked the meeting, competitors may not be as fortunate and it could be a downtime for them. Thus, the competitors are offering discount rooms at rates that may be lower than those negotiated at the hotel holding the meeting.

You know the rest of the story: the planner wants attendance at the meeting, the hotel wants its sleeping rooms filled, and the attendee wants to save money.

In the case of citywide conventions, some cities suggest there be a surcharge for attendance if the attendee does not use one of the convention-prescribed hotels. For individual hotels hosting meetings, if the attendee is not staying in the hotel, they could be asked to pay their share via a surcharge. Obviously, it is incumbent on the hotel to work with the planner and ensure that attendees cannot book lower rates outside their block.

The internet is slowly moving from a discount distribution channel to one that is viewed as convenient, thorough and user friendly. The transition will help alleviate this problem, but for now, it is an issue to recognize.


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