Room poaching is one of those stubborn meetings and events industry problems that deftly avoids even the best efforts to snuff it out.

It’s the “Whac-A-Mole” of industry irritants: You whack one “room pirate” with the mallet and another room-block-busting buccaneer pops its head up somewhere else.

In short, room poaching is when travel or housing companies outside of the official conference housing agency portray themselves as representing the event, or at least give the appearance of being associated with the event. The companies target likely attendees, whether through using an event’s published attendee list or via other means, and attempt to steer them to book outside of the official room block company.

While some forms of “poaching” are perfectly legal, other room pirates are up to more nefarious deeds, including identity theft and stealing credit card information.

[Related Content: Battling the Housing Pirates May Be Harder Than You Think]

In July 2018, IMEX America sent out an email warning attendees of non-affiliated companies infringing on their housing efforts by appearing to be the official room block provider, and ASAE has been the target of the practice for a number of years.

Meetings Today reached out to ASAE to get some tips to share with meeting planners about how they, as a potential attendee, can avoid being commandeered by the room pirates, and which they can share with the attendees of their meetings to stop room poaching in its tracks.

Following is advice from Pam Troop, CMP, director, meeting operations & special events, for ASAE:

“Every year, we get contacted by scammers and room poachers who are trying to confuse and entice attendees coming to your organization’s meeting. They are trying to persuade participants to book their hotel stay with them. As we head into conference season, I wanted to provide five tips to create better outcomes:

  • Scammers and poachers will call and email relentlessly. The official hotel reservation office will respect your time and reach out to you sparingly. The relationship with guests is very important to them as well as with the organization they are working with.
  • If the deal is too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Scammers and poachers generally request full payment for your hotel stay. The official hotel reservation office will request a credit card guarantee or one-night room and tax deposit.
  • The official hotel reservation office is tied to your organization's event website. If you aren't sure if a company is an event partner, look at the website where you book your rooms. The reservation office information will be listed on your organization’s site.
  • ASAE, or any organization hosting the meeting, will maintain a list of “official” vendors on their website as well as companies who are NOT affiliated with the conference.

If you get an email that you think is suspicious, send it to the organization to let them know. They will send the scamming company a cease and desist order.”

Additional resources, including a sample cease and desist letter, to battle housing pirates is available through the Events Industry Council via its “Housing Pirates, Poachers & Interceptors” document, available here.

Events Industry Council: 2018 Room Poaching Study

The EIC conducted a survey in early 2018 on the impact of room block poaching in our industry and it released the results of the survey on July 27, 2018. The organization said that it "found some positive trends, but overall, [room block poaching] remains a serious problem for our industry." It conducted a similar survey in 2014.

The good news: when comparing data from 2014 to 2018, room block poaching frequency dropped from 73 percent of respondents being affected by poaching to 63 percent.

Of the 63 percent of respondents impacted, the EIC noted:

  • 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.

EIC Infographic: What Are the Poachers Doing?

EIC Infographic: What Are the Room Poachers Doing? Credit: Events Industry Council

For the full EIC room block poaching survey results, visit the Events Council Blog.