Small Market Meetings

DEC 2016

The Newspaper for Smaller Cities, Facilities and Planners.

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December 2016 13 Courtesy Go Cedar Rapids Go Cedar Rapids provides housing bureau services for sports events in the area. tract with their hotel of choice. For planners, exploring options has never been easier. Real-Time Tracking During the reservation process, housing bureaus use their resources to regulate the number and location of rooms selected. "The real value of our service is that we help meeting planners closely monitor their room block commitments to ensure that they are meeting their contractual obligations," said Amy Cabe, director of con- vention services at Visit Spokane in Spokane, Washington. "If we observe that one hotel's room block is poised to sell out briskly while another hotel's rooms are sitting untouched, we work quickly by advising the meeting planner of this and recommending adjust- ments." Likewise, many have an online housing program that allows plan- ners to keep track of which guests have made reservations and what rooms still need to be filled. This is helpful with managing staff and VIP lists, since planners may know how many rooms are needed ahead of time but not where people will choose to stay. As clients update their guest lists, bureau staff send out weekly reports on which rooms are currently full or available. According to Rachel Meagley, the convention services and research coordinator at Visit Spokane, planners can control their level of involvement with this process. "They get a login, so they can go in and see their block or pull reports," she said. Other planners choose not to visit the site at all and simply wait to receive reports from the bureau. Simplified Registration Registration is extremely simple as well. When guests are ready to begin booking their rooms, they will find everything they need on a single site. "The attendees are directed to a link via the event website, where they create a profile, pick the dates they're needing a room, and how many rooms are needed," said Heather Deeter, director of group ser- vices at Go Cedar Rapids in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "At that point, the system shows them the available properties that meet their crite- ria. They can then go through the process of booking the hotel — much like the process for any online hotel reservation system." Guests are prompted to enter their credit card information, which will be protected on secure software for the hotels alone to process. They may also include their loyalty membership details. "The hotels have to log into the system with their secure credentials in order to retrieve the payment information for the reservation," said Deeter. "We do collect loyalty program information, and that is includ- ed in the information that the hotel receives." Afterward, the guest receives a confirmation email that their request has been processed. Planning Ahead Planners should contact housing bureaus at least several months prior to the event, since it is not uncommon for organizations to reserve room blocks over a year in advance. "We have a couple of events already booked for 2020," said Meagley.

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