Room block poaching refers to businesses that actively seek to recruit or divert event attendees away from official room blocks and into other hotel bookings. “This is pervasive,” says Mike Dominguez, senior vice president of corporate sales at MGM Resorts International. “It’s touching everybody now, primarily in the big cities that have larger citywide conventions.”
Dominguez is part of a workgroup formed by the Convention Industry Council’s Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) that intends to develop awareness and best practices for minimizing the impact of room block poaching.
The practice isn’t new, but technology has made it easier for accessibility to a customer, Dominguez says. Poachers attack public information, such as exhibitor lists on conference websites.
It’s important to divide the issue into three buckets: legitimate disruptive competition, poachers, and pirates, he notes. Legitimate competitors clearly state they are not affiliated with the organization or host hotel, but they have an offer to make.
Poachers sell inventory for an event and represent themselves as being affiliated with the conference or host hotel. “We see that as poaching, and it’s completely unethical,” Dominguez says. “The challenge is, it’s not necessarily illegal in a lot of cases. That’s why we’re trying to clearly identify it and then figure out our legal options and how to start attacking those organizations.”
Pirates also claim they’re attached to the organization or hotel, but they actually steal from attendees. Pirates accept payment for the hotel reservation, and when the guest shows up, the hotel has no record of the booking.
“They don’t even have the room to sell you, but they now have your money and credit card information,” Dominguez says.
The APEX workgroup is focused on educating the market on what meeting planners and suppliers can do to help minimize the impact of these poachers, pirates, and new disruptive companies. Consumer education is another important piece of the puzzle, especially as recent headline-grabbing breaches have made data security top of mind. “It’s important to let people know we cannot control their data if they’re not booking through the official housing agency and the official hotel,” he says.