2012 BPA Survey Results—Reservations
Jan. 12, 2013

Speaking of harping, one frequent grouse I tend to agree with is how reservations are handled, or not handled, at the Host. To be fair, the hotel industry in general plays fast and loose with consumers where reservations are concerned—much like the airline industry. The public’s perception of a “reservation” and what it guarantees is far different from the industry’s viewpoint. Since their product is time sensitive—you can’t sell yesterday’s guestroom—occupancy rates and how to maximize them rule the industry. Did you realize that just like the airlines, a hotel will reserve more rooms than it actually has because it anticipates a percentage of cancellations? Obviously, if that percentage does not happen, someone is out of luck. And the big chains are even worse. Think you have a reservation at the Marriott? Think again if the hotel is sold out and a Marriott’s Reward member walks in for his guaranteed room. You can be “walked” to a nearby hotel 20 miles away. I’ve seen it happen. The fellow I saw it happen to hasn’t been back since. And I don’t blame him. But I digress … suffice it to say that reservation policies have been a regular subject of my meetings with management and will continue to be until the situation improves.

52% of our respondents say they stay at the Host when able to get a reservation. 9% stay at the Continental across the street while 16% stay at another hotel within walking distance. 11% use a nearby hotel requiring a drive to the Host while 7% commute from a private residence. 4% use other lodging choices including the nearby campground. 5% claim that if they cannot stay in the convention hotel they would not attend while 95% claim they would find alternate lodging.

What You’d Like to See… What You Want Not to Change How I See It…
Room Deposits 1: Substantial deposit required to reserve rooms for next year so they are not booked and discarded later in the year.   The standard limit on deposits is one day’s stay.
VIP Status 2: I would like to see a mechanism for reserving rooms at the Host for GMs. Last year we were unable to get a room until the last minute, and with multiple GMs in our family that caused us a lot of stress.   While I agree with the sentiment, I have over 150 GMs/volunteers who would qualify for VIP status. Even if I could get the hotel to honor such a large list, I know I couldn’t get all of those GMs to agree to make a reservation on time—or if they did, to keep it. However, I will contact this year’s GMs in the summer and inquire if they wish to be put on such a list for 2014. If there is sufficient interest I will attempt to make it happen but the hotel will have the final say and make the requirements under which they will honot such a list. Lastly, even if this happens, it may not be possible at other locations. Chains often use a national reservation service with no such list exceptions.
Hotel Room Hoarding 5: Do whatever you have to do to stop this. OTOH 1: I do like the ability to book my hotel early with option to cancel early in summer with little or no penalty.

Yes, many people like the option to make a reservation in case they attend and the ability to cancel it without penalty 11 months later. That is the problem. Even if those cancelled rooms ultimately get filled later, in the meantime people have decided not to attend because they can’t get a room or made other plans. Every year we’ve had WBC—at this location and elsewhere—we’ve “soldout” the hotel early, but have never come close to getting credit for that due to all the room cancellations. So, those who say this is not a problem, obviously are denying reality.

The solution to this problem is forfeiture of your deposit for any cancellation. It is a common practise at any attraction that sells out the available lodging—including outdoor activities like amusement parks. If it rains, you’re out of luck. It is a policy we have requested and plan to implement in the future if we can work out the details with the hotel.

Priority for the Week 2: I’d like the Host to give priority to people who are making reservations for the whole 9 days. / I don’t know how it could be accomplished, but I would like some recognition of seniority and fealty in attendance to be reflected in the availability of rooms—especially rooms closer to the gaming spaces. I have attended EVERY Avaloncon, and EVERY WBC, since inception. With the exception of the first few years in York, I have registered at the Tribune level every year. I must admit that it rankles that I am in a scrum every year—competing with rookies, first-timers, the unwashed and the unworthy—to secure my reservation at the Host for the WBC. There should be some system of right-of-first-refusal on room reservations, giving preference to loyal, long-time supporters of the BPA. A list should be maintained of those most loyal in their WBC attendance (call it the ’stalwart list’), and they should be automatically registered at the Host for the next year, with only the necessity of confirming their plans to attend, not scramble for a dwindling supply of rooms. /  

I’m afraid there is no practical way to implement that if for no other reason than I’m not going to be the judge of who is more worthy than others since I have no idea of who has been a patron of the host hotel for even one year—let alone 14. I’m willing to explore the possibilities of the hotel honoring such a system for veteran GMs, but that is the extent of it.

One would think that reservations for longer stays would be given preference over shorter ones as minimum stays are frequent requirements where demand outstrips supply.

More Rooms at the Host 4: The Hotel should allow a waitlist so that cancelled rooms can be filled with gamers who want to stay there. There is no excuse for making onerous rules and requirements for cancellations since there are always more gamers who want to stay there. There is also no excuse for there being such a small room block. I’ve been to many, many conferences in my life, and usually expect a much better rate for such a large block.   1. The hotel does mainain a wait list. It has been a requirement in our contract since the beginning. 2. The hotel has 300 guestrooms. Our roomblock is 300. There are no more rooms to be had. And I might add that it is very rare for a hotel to block all of its rooms since they can always sell some to transients at a higher rate than the negotiated group rate. Undoubtedly, this is where many of those cancelled rooms ultimately go. It is one of the limiting factors we face in finding an alternate site—most hotels will not allow us to block all their rooms.
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