I recently came across an excellent article in the Spring issue of Adrenalin, a magazine about Sports Tourism in Canada. The Case for Stay-To-Play looks at the reasons, challenges, and best practices for implementing a "stay-to-play" policy.
Essentially the policy states that attendees who book their accommodations outside the negotiated room block(s) are prohibited from participating in the event.
Sounds draconian - but it works. By giving the organizers complete control of the room block they're in a stronger bargaining position with hotels, and without the risk of attrition charges, the event - and the organization itself - can flourish, which in turn benefits its members/event attendees.
I experienced some form of this a couple of years ago, when I attended a PCMA East conference in Montreal. I was delighted to stay at the beautiful Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, the host hotel for (and major sponsor of) the conference. Had I opted to stay at nearby a hotel though, I would have received a phone call from the organizers (who were comparing the conference registration list with the hotel reservations list) and been told that I would be charged an additional $200 to attend the conference. (It should be pointed out that this was a meetings industry conference, so we all "got it".)
One of my clients has implemented a softer version of this by offering a "Stay and Save" rebate to attendees who book their hotel room before the cutoff date, and show proof of hotel check-in when they pick up their registration materials at the event. (See Sweet Side of Swing Northwest) I think this is brilliant!
Would love to hear your feedback.