I got a call from an association planner friend of mine the other day asking if I had ever heard of a company called Convention Housing. I had to admit that I never had but asked why and what was up.
The tale she began to weave was familiar to me if the exact players in this story were not, they seem to be hotel poachers.
What is a hotel poacher?
A hotel poacher is a company that trolls your attendee and exhibitor list looking for ways to contact people that may be looking to book rooms for your meeting, conference, convention or event. Once they discover these people, they call and try and pass themselves off as the “official” housing department and they book the rooms outside of the block, earning a profit for themselves and leaving the event planner wondering where all of their room nights went.
In my friends case, it seems that one of her exhibitors received multiple contacts from a person saying that they were with “Convention Housing” and they were inquiring to book their rooms for the upcoming city wide convention. Note the generic name of the company….
After the exhibitor had spoken with this “housing company”, she called the association planner, she was irate. The exhibitor asked why the association was bugging her so much to book their rooms for the conference.
My friend said “we are not calling you, you have till the end of the month to book, and we don’t make sales calls to book rooms”. She asked the exhibitor for a little patience so she could look into this.
A smart thinker, my planner friend also asked that the exhibitor forward any emails or company information that she had…. my planner friend then went to work looking for information.
What she has found is that this company, Convention Housing, is exhibiting all of the signs of a poacher. After looking at the documentation, I would have to agree and share the same opinion.
Here is how one of the conversations went down according to the exhibitor:
Poacher starts the conversation with a high pressure sales talk to book rooms for the upcoming citywide
Exhibitor: So, you are the official housing provider for the conference
Poacher: Yes, XXXX company is the official housing provider (the poacher says the name of the official housing provider but misleads by not actually saying that she was NOT with them)
Exhibitor: That is not what I asked, I asked if you are the official housing provider
Poacher: Yes I said, XXXX is the official housing provider
Fortunately, this exhibitor is one smart lady and a savvy businessperson. She caught on to what was happening and squashed the conversation like a bug. The question remains however, how many have fallen for this act. After looking through the rooming lists, it appears that only 30% of the exhibitors are in the block for my friend’s event.
There could be many reasons for this. Exhibitors may be booking on their own at cheap out of town places, they may not have made their reservations yet or they could have been poached.
Poaching is bad for planners on many levels.
- Poachers could cause you attrition problems if you are counting your exhibitors as a part of your block and they are booking outside of this block
- Poachers are stealing your exhibitors and attendees away and you can no longer be sure of the product that they are getting or the service they are receiving
- Be aware, your attendees and even speakers are not immune. If a list is out there, they are calling them too
So what can meeting planners do to avoid poachers:
- Make sure that your attendees, speakers and exhibitors know how, when and why they will be contacted
- Make sure that you are looking over your housing lists
- Make sure that you are in communication with all of your exhibitors and attendees and that you have an open dialogue
- Make sure that your attendees and exhibitors know that their are companies out there that want to steal their business away from the meeting, conference or event and that this causes harm to the event
- Make sure that you have an ironclad way for your attendees to contact your housing company or department
- Include relevant links to your housing company or department in every communication so that the attendee and exhibitor can book directly
I hate crap like this because it gives us all a bad name. I do not know this company “Convention Housing” but there are a few things that stand out.
- There website is not exactly professional and has only three pages
- There is no contact information beyond the basics on their website
- The company officers are not listed on their website
- There are no clients listed and no references or testimonials to refer too
Does anyone else know about this company? Do you have any other tales of this happening to you? Let us know because knowledge is power!