February 01, 2003
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Web Sites Aim to Rein In Attrition


Mike Foster of ResQuest Two new technology services are offering planners innovative ways to track attendees who book outside the room block.

Dallas-based ResQuest Group (www.resquest.com) and Travel Technology Group (www.ttgonline.com) in Chicago both offer event-specific Web pages where attendees register and book hotel rooms. Both resources list block and nonblock hotels, thus helping planners capture reservation information for everyone who books through the sites.

TTG’s CompassDirect product does not capture people who search for discounted rates at the host hotels; this option is offered to planners by ResQuest.

The planner decides how many hotels to list and, in the case of ResQuest, when to list discounted rates at host properties, said Mike Foster, president and CEO of ResQuest. Clients may opt to use the discount option after the reservation cutoff date, so attendees who book late can find a good rate at the host hotel.

On both Web sites, attendees first see the block hotels. They are shown other property choices only after being warned that, by booking outside the block, they will forego amenities such as free shuttle service.

Hoteliers like Dave Scypinski, senior vice president of industry relations for White Plains, N.Y.-based Starwood Hotels and Resorts, hope such systems work.

“Currently, the hotel has to sit down with the customer and cross-check the registration list with the hotel register,” Scypinski said. “If there’s something that can automatically capture this information, that will save a whole lot of hassle.”

But will planners want to offer attendees an easy way to book outside the block?

“The ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ philosophy might work in some specific situations, such as for citywide meetings in a soft economy,” said technology expert Corbin Ball, CMP, owner of Corbin Ball Assoc. based in Bellingham, Wash.

Meanwhile, planners are likely to gain more accurate attendance data, which will help in future negotiations with CVBs and convention centers.

• S.B.

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