Alexandria, VA – A few ounces of prevention and the willingness to unleash the lawyers highlighted the latest best practices from a Convention Industry Council (CIC) task force for countering room block piracy.
Hotel poachers have been a consistent thorn in the side of trade show and convention organizers for decades, but organizers do have some tactics to either prevent these online grifters from getting a hold of their attendees and exhibitors, or at least make certain they never do it again.
The task force formed under the CIC’s Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) Initiative released its report and a toolbox of best practices that show organizers can use to prevent poachers from conning attendees rather than making their reservations through the official show room block. The report and toolbox were posted in January on the Standards & Practices section of www.conventionindustry.org
“We wanted to create a practical and usable toolbox that meeting professionals can use starting today to help combat this complex issue with a variety of practices,” said Michael Dominguez, co-chair of the Room Block Poaching Working Group and senior vice-president, hotel sales for MGM Resorts International.
Hotel room piracy and poaching is the practice of small companies or individuals soliciting show attendees with offers of rooms at reduced rates. Those offers are often a classic “bait and switch.” The result? Attendees and exhibitors may send in payments, and then arrive at the show with either no room reservations or lodging in a sub-par budget motel located miles from the show.
The odds are that many attendees will also discover down the road that their credit card information has been compromised.
For show managers, allowing poaching to go unchecked can result in not only unhappy customers, but damage to their event’s reputation and strained relations with the official hotel, which loses business.
The CIC APEX Survey of Event Organizers found that 73.1% of respondents had been targeted by poachers in 2014, but 70.5% of respondents did not have a plan in place to counter these swindlers.
Among the steps for show managers recommended in the report were:
- Trademark the show name. This bars pirates from using it in their solicitations. It also lays the groundwork for potential legal action on the grounds of trademark infringement.
- Prepare a cease-and-desist letter. Quickly inform suspected poachers they are committing a tort by interfering with legal show housing contracts.
- Protect digital show logos. This prevents them from being copied and pasted by poachers.
- Proactively alert attendees that piracy exists. They will be less likely to fall for a solicitation.
- Use a single system for registration and housing. Attendees can book their rooms at the same time they register.
- Protect past registration lists. A sturdy firewall will keep valuable attendee contact information out of the wrong hands. Also monitor some of the names on the registration list to ensure contractors or exhibitors don’t misuse them.
- Alert hotel desk staff about piracy. They will be better prepared to help out snookered attendees arrive and find out they have no reservations.
The Best Practices and its accompanying White Paper are the result of input and ideas from across the trade show and meetings industry. The preventative steps taken can help avoid some unpleasant consequences before, during and after the show.