Events Council Blog

Room block poaching: It may be getting better, but it's still pretty bad

Jul 27, 2018

Earlier this year, we asked event professionals to help us assess the impact of room block poaching in our industry by participating in a survey. We found some positive trends, but overall, this remains a serious concern for our industry.

 Room block pirates and poachers are businesses that actively seek to recruit or divert event participants, primarily attendees and exhibitors, away from official room blocks and into other hotel bookings, using a range of techniques to approach event participants and gain their business.

room block poaching statisticsWe first conducted research on this topic in 2014. When comparing data from 2014 to 2018, there is some good news to report. Frequency has dropped from 73 percent of respondents being affected by poaching to 63 percent. While at first glance, this looks like good progress, it remains concerning that so many of our events are being targeted.

As part of our last study, we identified different forms that poaching can take. In this new survey, we assessed the frequency with which these are occurring. Some troubling data has emerged about credit card fraud. In examining the responses from the 63 percent affected by poaching, we found that:

  • 43 percent were affected by fictitious reservations and credit card fraud
  • 10 percent can trace ongoing credit card fraud and identity theft back to room block poaching

what are room block poachers doing?

It’s also troubling that 60 percent of the time, we are not able to identify how the poachers acquired data. The most prevalent source appears to be from exhibitor lists off of the event website (49 percent reported this to be the case). 

Note to readers: You’re probably thinking that these numbers don’t add up, but planners could select more than one option for this question. They may know how the poacher found the exhibitors, but remain baffled about how the participant list was acquired.

As can be expected from the numbers above, exhibitors were most likely to be targeted. Of those affected by poaching, 77 percent saw their exhibitors targeted, 70 percent their attendees, and 36 percent sponsors. Staff were only affected 16 percent of the time.

Switching back to the good news, we are definitely taking charge in this area. 81 percent of those affected have taken steps in response to poaching. The most effective response mechanism has been issuing an alert to potential guests. We’re also taking preventative steps 48 percent of the time, with the one rated most effective being to integrate registration and housing systems.

what else is being poached?

Our survey findings also included information on the frequency of poaching in industry sectors in addition to room blocks. The most affected area identified was in exhibitor services.

Additional resources on preventing and responding to poaching can be found on our website.

Mariela McIlwraith, CMP, CMM, MBA
Director, Industry Advancement

Events Industry Council