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Limited-Service Hotels and the SMERF Market

SMERF attendees tend to be more budget conscious than many group markets because they are almost always spending their own money. That focus on cost can make limited service hotels look attractive. Third-party distribution channels tend to feature limited-service properties because prices may be a few dollars lower than convention center headquarters hotels and other full-service properties.

“The general consumer thinks they can find better deals by staying at a limited-service property,” said Chuck Ocheltree, chief marketing officer for The National Conference Center in Leesburg, Va. “That isn’t always the case, but that belief makes it important that planners remind their attendees that they are getting special rates and special services by staying at the event property.”

SMERF groups also have a financial interest in convincing their attendees to stay at the event property. Groups that meet their room block requirements get free or significantly discounted meeting space, noted Bob Murdock, director of national accounts for the Connecticut Convention and Sports bureau in Hartford.

“If you move to a limited-service hotel and outside space, you don’t get that free or discounted event space,” he cautioned. “SMERF planners are like other planners in that regard. They need to look at the total cost of their event, not just hotel costs, when they make those decisions. That’s where working with the experts at the bureau can help groups consider all of their options, not just the most obvious ones.”

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About the author
Fred Gebhart