These days, pirates are not just found on the high seas, they’re also abundant in the meetings industry. However, room pirates are not in search of buried event treasure. These unauthorized housing companies are after your exhibitors and attendees instead. They profit by deceiving attendees into making their hotel reservations outside of the room block.
Often, housing pirates will misrepresent their companies, faking an association with your event. They will contact attendees and urge them to book their rooms immediately, saying that the room block is either sold out or near capacity. In the best case scenario, they may book a room for the attendee in a cheaper, less desirable location, claiming that it is an overflow hotel. These reservations will usually include steep cancellation fees so that the attendees cannot change plans later if they discover they were mislead. In the worse cases, the housing pirates will collect attendees’ credit card information without making any room reservations in return.
You may not be able to prevent all housing fraud, but there are several steps you can take to keep your attendees safe.
Communicate with Attendees
Most exhibitors and attendees are not familiar with room block pirates. Take on the responsibility to keep them as informed as possible. Consider sharing the following information with them:
- How room blocks work
- Why room blocks are valuable to both the attendee and the event
- Who is managing housing for the event
- Which tactics housing pirates are likely to use
- What they can do if they have been contacted by an unauthorized housing company
For an excellent example, review the Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Association of Schools Boards. They have provided this information in detail on the housing pages of their website.
Protect Your Information
Event and association websites often include lists of attendees, exhibitors, and members. While these lists are a great resource for networking, they’re also a treasure trove of contact information for housing pirates. Consider removing these lists from the public domain and restricting access to only those who have registered for the event.
Know Your Rights
Housing pirates are difficult to stop because they are often not doing anything illegal. While their actions are arguably unethical, they may not be breaking any laws. You may be able to take legal action if:
- The housing company infringes on your intellectual property by using your logo or trademarked name;
- The housing company engages in tortuous interference (intentional interference with a contract) by publishing room rates for the contracted hotel(s) that are lower than those offered in your room block;
- The housing company sells rooms without making any reservations in return.