An industry-wide collaborative study of 170 U.S. events shows that on average one out of three group nights are booked outside the event-contracted room block.
The landmark study was performed by Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics Company. It was jointly released by ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership; Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), the Destination & Travel Foundation; Meeting Professionals International (MPI); and the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) Education Foundation.
It introduces a new metric of event room demand that will provide planners, hoteliers and destination management organizations (DMOs) an additional lens through which to consider room block pick-up performance.
“Despite general agreement that many attendees book outside the room block, the meetings industry traditionally relies on the historical room block pick-up as one of the most important metrics to value an event,” said Christine “Shimo” Shimasaki, managing director of empowerMINT.com and Event Impact Calculator at Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI). “This study proves that the method captures only a partial story, and is the first of its kind to quantify just how many more overnight visitors the meetings industry is continuing to drive to destinations across the United States.”
Methodology and Variations
The study conducted zip code analyses for more than 170 events with over 880,000 attendee origin data provided by registration and housing companies, association management companies, destination marketing organizations, and individual meeting and exhibition organizers.
Events ranged from 60 to more than 55,000 attendees, across various market segments, event locations and destinations from 2012 to 2015. The research took a conservative approach to event room demand, estimating that only those attendees with zip codes more than 100 miles from the meeting locale required a guest room.
While on average 34.1 percent of rooms are being booked outside the contracted room block, study findings showed significant variation in the proportion of rooms booked outside the block. These variations can be explained in part by certain event characteristics.
“Across the sample of events studied, the variation of the share of rooms outside the block was quite large, so it’s critical to avoid applying the every third room assumption across all events,” said Christopher Pike, director of Impact Studies, Tourism Economics. “Factors including event size, facility gross square footage, market segment, and length of an event all influence the share of rooms booked outside the block, and we have a tremendous opportunity to match room demand with an event more closely.”
“Going forward we encourage DMOs to partner with their planners to extend the work of this study and conduct individual event analyses, because with more data we will be able to understand some further insights into what continues to influence attendees and exhibitors to stay outside the contract room block,” said Shimasaki, “This study is the first step for the meetings industry to assess the number of rooms actually used with greater accuracy and provide key data to inform and encourage additional change and progress.”