PCMA Study Highlights the Knock Against the Room Block

Are rooms in a conference hotel block more expensive? Usually, no—but attendees often think so, which creates a value perception disparity and leads them to other options, a PCMA Foundation report reveals.

Your association may want attendees to book within your hotel room block for a number of reasons—but according to one just-released metric, half of an average event’s attendees skip the block and decide to book their own way.

Why is that?

Room Block of the Future” [registration], a recent study from the PCMA Foundation, along with a variety of partners (including supporters Hilton and NYC & Company, plus researchers at Kalibri Labs and Prism Advisory Group), lays out a number of reasons—including misperceptions of a room block’s actual value.

One such misunderstanding was cost: Many perceive rooms within the block as more expensive, despite evidence that they are cheaper nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the time. Part of the reason for this disparity comes down to external factors that raise the price, including late booking, room availability, and the “expense account effect”—simply, the fact that the attendees aren’t paying leads them to get a more expensive room.

“While each of these factors certainly were at play, what is not in question is that booking outside the room block is going to cost more about two-thirds of the time,” the report said.

Other factors that might have led to more outside booking include a frustration that loyalty programs can’t be used with many room blocks, a desire for other options, and an increased desire among younger attendees in particular to stay in alternative housing options, such as Airbnb rentals.

After removing the roughly 3 percent of conference-goers who live locally and commute to the event, the result is that half of attendees book through the block, an additional 25 percent book at the same hotel outside of the room block, and another 25 percent choose alternative lodging options entirely.

The study’s research was conducted in two ways—first on a data analysis by Kalibri Labs, then through survey results conducted by Prism Advisory Group. The results of the data analysis strongly corroborated the survey results, with only minor differentiation in rate.

While the high-level results were eye-opening, the report ultimately concluded that more research was needed to understand “how to update and modernize the convention attendee experience so that it works for them in the digital age.”

In comments to Skift, PCMA Foundation Executive Director Meredith Rollins noted that the data itself wasn’t as interesting as what it implied about room blocks.

“As we released some early findings [to meeting planners], I don’t think they were that surprised by that 50 percent booking outside the block,” Rollins stated. “What was interesting to them was the reasons why, like the importance of loyalty programs and other reasons like the perception that by booking in the block you are paying more.”

(damircudic/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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