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April 1, 2014

CIC Launches Workgroup to Combat Hotel Room "Poaching"

While "outboarding" may be one of the biggest buzzwords in the events industry these days, another underhanded practice is also attracting notice. 

The Convention Industry Council’s Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) initiative formed a new workgroup late last week to tackle the issue of room block "poaching"—in other words, businesses that actively seek to recruit or divert event attendees away from official room blocks and into other hotel bookings. This can hurt a planner's ability to fill a pre-arranged hotel room block, which can (depending on the agreement with the hotel) generate financial penalties for the host organization, and also damage reputations and sour future business overall. 

The APEX Room Block Poaching Workgroup was created to raise industry awareness on the impacts of poaching and to develop best practices, tools, resources and education to aid individual meeting professionals in managing and protecting room blocks. The workgroup is chaired by MaryAnne Bobrow of Bobrow Associates and Michael Dominguez of MGM Resorts International.

“Hotel ‘poaching,’ or ‘piracy,’ is not new, but seems to be on the rise and affecting meetings around the globe. In some instances, a meeting’s management team may be unaware that rooms are being poached,” Bobrow said in a statement, adding that the workgroup will not be able to eliminate the practice, but will work to raise awareness and develop best practices for minimizing its impact on the industry and on individual events. Michael Dominguez added that the workgroup's “first priority is research and data-gathering, which will shape further work.” 

A little more than a year ago, IMR publishing partner MeetingsNet suggested in a report that education and awareness of the practice were two key factors in eliminating it, alongside protecting attendee lists (sometimes a challenge when exhibitors want to publicize their attendance) and clear communication between planners and hotels.

The members of the APEX Room Block Poaching Workgroup are: MaryAnne Bobrow, Bobrow Associates, Inc.; Adam Briggs, ConferenceDirect; Ronnie Burt, Destination DC; Michael Dominguez, MGM Resorts International; Lisa Dyson, TESOL International Association; Richard Harper, HelmsBriscoe; Michael Howe, OnPeak; Fun Lee, Cardiovascular Research Foundation – Center for Education; Michael Owen, EventGenuity; Anne Roth, Intercontinental Hotels Group; Stuart Ruff, RIMS, the Risk Management Society; and Heidi Voorhees, Experient.

The worksgroup will soon send out a survey to meeting planners to gather more information about the practice and how it has affected events.

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