by Jonathan Vatner | October 01, 2005

Christina Condos

Too little, too late:
Christina Condos of
Questex Media Group
has experienced the tense,
last-minute scramble for housing.

A few weeks before the AIIM On Demand Conference & Exposition, show organizer Christina Condos realized she needed an additional 1,000 hotel rooms. That kind of news isn’t always a crisis, except that Philadelphia, where the event would be held, was encroaching on full occupancy over those dates. Ironically, Condos’ company had decreased the block by 1,300 rooms just months before, fearing massive attrition penalties.
    “There was a concern that there would be too many rooms,” explains Condos, group director for technology events at Questex Media Group in Newton, Mass. “Then we made a major push for people to book their rooms and realized we might not have enough.”
    In today’s booming hospitality climate, finding enough hotel rooms for meetings in top-tier cities has become increasingly difficult, especially as meeting attendance begins to return to pre-2000 levels. To make matters worse, attrition fears routinely cause planners to play it safe and “underblock.” In other words, they set aside too few rooms, making a last-minute scramble almost inevitable.
    Multiple factors contributed to the room shortage at the AIIM On Demand show, geared toward the digital printing and enterprise content management industries. First, because this year was the show’s first in Philadelphia after a long run in New York City, Condos’ predecessor had blocked a conservative 2,400 rooms, rather than the 3,700 booked in years past. Second, it was difficult to gauge how many exhibitors would need hotel rooms in the new city. Attendees had been good about registering in advance, but exhibitors often were unpredictable about how many hotel rooms they would need and whether they would book within the block. Third, the show took place in May, a prime month for both conferences and leisure travelers, making it a tight squeeze in the first place.
    When the room shortage became evident, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau worked with Condos to call just about every hotel in the city, searching for empty rooms over those dates. They eventually scrounged up the needed rooms, a dozen at a time.
    “The city went all out for us,” says a relieved Condos. “We were able to satisfy most of the people who needed rooms.”
    Some attendees ended up as far away as the airport, and Condos’ staff did as much as they could, given no transportation budget, to assuage their grievances. Some hotels offered to provide transportation, though at most properties, attendees were on their own.
    Condos’ consolation is that next year, housing will run much more smoothly. “We have a better understanding of what our needs are, so we’ll be in much better shape for next year,” she says.