The event planning industry has a poaching problem. Although in recent years incidents of hoteliers luring event participants outside the room block have decreased, a majority of event professionals still say they have been victimized. Fortunately, some preventative methods can be taken. But first, let’s define the challenge as explained by Events Industry Council.
What is Poaching?
Room block poaching is the act of stealing event participants from official room blocks. Using various methods, businesses seek out attendees and exhibitors to recruit or pull them away from official negotiated hotel blocks.
There are a multitude of ways poachers do this:
- Selling fictitious reservations/card fraud: With this, event participants are led to believe by a third-party organization they have made a reservation, when in fact they haven’t. Participants are left with no room reservation, but their card may have still been charged.
- Misrepresentation: Poachers misrepresent themselves to sell bookings outside of the official hotel block. Two common ways they do this is by “bait and switch,” in which they falsely advertise a room that is better than what is being sold, or they say the official hotel block is sold out.
- Trademark infringement: Poachers will use the logo of an event owner to look like an official business. Trademarks registered with a governmental trademark entity have an easier time pursuing trademark infringement.
- Unauthorized access, use and selling of data: A poacher may obtain attendee information by unauthorized use of a website or database, or they may purchase data from an unauthorized seller.
- Obtaining inventory through omission: Without disclosing their intent, poachers may obtain room inventory from hotels or hotel’s wholesalers.
How This Affects Planners and Attendees
When poaching occurs, event planners not only take a financial hit, but their reputation may also be negatively affected. In addition to incurred legal fees, planners will also have to face dissatisfied attendees and could have trouble meeting their minimums. If poaching results in inaccurate room block history, planners will find it more difficult to negotiate room blocks in the future.
Poaching has negative consequences for the host hotels as well. Much like planners, their reputation is also at stake. Hotels may have limited space, and when an attendee arrives to learn they don’t have a reservation, this looks bad on the hotel, even if the hotel is not at fault.
What You Can Do
In 2014, the Convention Industry Council conducted a survey of 622 event professionals, and found that 73.1 percent of respondents had events targeted by poaching. In 2018, this number dropped to 63 percent—still a huge problem.
Here are ways to prevent it:
- Include an alert about the official room block and potential poaching risks in the registration process.
- Provide information to attendees and exhibitors on the event website clearly listing official vendors and logos, as well as potential personal risks.
- Conduct a pre-arrival audit of reservations. Notify attendees that haven’t booked in the official room block of possible poaching.
- Remove or restrict access to lists of past, present and potential attendees and exhibitors.
- Request permission to access attendee data and limit information included on any published lists.
- Make copying logos more difficult by disabling the right-click copying function or slicing it into several fragments.
Seeding and Salting
- Use seeding and salting practices to alert planners of possible poaching and identify leaks. Seeding adds names to lists that are monitored for unauthorized use. If multiple lists are distributed, salting adds unique names to each to trace which has been compromised.