January 03, 2024
By Kim Campbell

When families, companies, or other groups need a place to gather, they often look to hotels for event space and overnight accommodations. Booking a hotel room block is a convenient way to manage all the travel plans for several people simultaneously, as many hotels offer guestrooms, meeting space, and meals. Hotels that provide competitive, affordable, and easy-to-book room blocks can help attract more business to their destination, driving it right to their front door.

In this guide, we’re covering everything you need to know about hotel room blocks. You’ll learn how to improve your hotel room block strategy, develop better marketing campaigns, and get your promotional materials in front of the planners who need to see them when they need to see them. From hosting wedding blocks and corporate groups to sports teams and more, you’ll discover how group hotel booking can benefit you. Discover what your property needs to know about hotel room blocks and how to manage them.

What is a hotel room block?

A hotel room block is a block of guestrooms that the hotel sets aside specifically for a particular group’s use. In most cases, room blocks consist of ten or more guestrooms set aside to accommodate a specific group of travelers. Because hotels may host many different types of hotel guests, they may offer room blocks to accommodate a variety of different groups, including:

  • Corporate groups (e.g., meetings, conferences, symposiums, regional visits)
  • Private groups (e.g., family vacations, reunions, and weddings) 
  • Social, Military, Educational, Religious, and Fraternal groups (SMERF)
  • Athletic groups (e.g., youth and collegiate sports or local tournaments)

The number of rooms and services hotels offer groups vary from property to property. For example, a full-service resort can host much larger groups than a smaller 70-room chain hotel. Also, hotels with event space may offer bundled room block packages for organizers seeking meeting space and overnight rooms.

How do hotel room blocks work?

When seeking a block of rooms, a group contact, travel agent, or event planner may contact various hotels to check their group booking policies and availability. They are looking for a location to set aside a group of rooms, typically at a discounted rate, that are only available for members of their group to book.

After reviewing a group’s information, hotels determine whether the business block would benefit their revenue goals and occupancy levels. If so, they provide a proposed quote that includes the room rate, rooms held, and other contract policies, including:

  • Minimal booking requirements. Most hotels require groups to book a minimum number of guestrooms, room nights, or a particular stay pattern to qualify for a discounted block rate.
  • Block cut-off date. This is the date that the hotel will stop holding group rooms in the block and release unbooked guestrooms for public sale.
  • Attrition policies. Attrition protects the hotel from losing revenue due to unreserved block rooms. Attrition percentage refers to the number of unbooked room nights the group is financially responsible for after the cut-off date. An attrition rate of 20% means the group must pay for 20% of all unreserved rooms.
  • Group reservation policies. Dictate early arrival or late check-out terms, standard hotel policies, and individual cancellation policies. Guests in the block may be accountable to the group cut-off date or a separate cancellation policy, such as seven days or 48 hours before arrival. Carefully outline any exceptions that will be offered for inclement weather, canceled events, and emergencies.

Once the contact and hotel agree on the terms and a contract is signed, the negotiated room block is set aside from available hotel inventory, ensuring it’s held exclusively for the group. The contact will then provide a hotel rooming list, manage their block’s room assignments, or instruct group members to make reservations inside the block.  

Learn how the top hotels of 2023 got to be where they are

Who pays for hotel room block expenses? 

In many group blocks, individuals are responsible for paying for their own room. For example, in a wedding block, each guest would typically be responsible for the cost of their room and onsite expenses. However, a corporate contact may be responsible for all or part of the bill for corporate events, like conferences or annual meetings. The company may cover room and tax only, include a daily food stipend for each guest, or elect to pay for all group expenses, including upgrades or additional services.

The pros and cons of offering hotel room blocks 

Do you already offer hotel room blocks? Should you?

Like any other hotel business venture, block booking has ups and downs. Consider them all before determining whether group blocks are suitable for your hotel.

The pros of hotel room blocks 

If you have space, offering hotel room blocks can benefit your property in several ways. From driving booking pace to supporting higher room rates, blocks can help increase overall hotel performance.

  • Blocks help boost occupancy 

Selling blocks of rooms enables hotels to secure a certain percentage of their occupancy levels months, or even years, in advance. Contracting 10-20% of the hotel to groups can put your property ahead of the competition.

  • Groups can drive future rate 

Because group blocks give hotels a business base to build upon, properties that book have a leg up on raising rates while remaining competitive in the current market. If demand increases, hotels can maximize revenue potential by consistently raising the rate for remaining guestrooms.

  • Block offers appeal to different market segments 

Promote group blocks to attract new market segments, like weddings or sports teams. Attracting niche markets can help your hotel win during the off or shoulder seasons.

  • Loyal groups increase repeat business 

Whether to attend a convention or tournament, your area may see the same groups return year after year. Build strong relationships with group contacts and make booking a breeze to foster lucrative, repeat hotel room blocks.

The cons of group hotel booking

Although block booking has many benefits, there are potential downsides to consider before promoting or contracting a block of group rooms.

  • Blocks may offset higher-rated business

Contracting too many block rooms over dates that are in high demand could cause your hotel to lose out on higher-rated business. Hotels can’t lower rack rates below group discounted rates to capture last-minute business, as it would harm their reputation and credibility.

  • They could require altering operating procedures

When hosting a wedding block, a smaller inn may need to dedicate all of its attention, services, and rooms to the group, which could include special projects or unfamiliar staff responsibilities. You may need to rope or block off private space at a larger property.

  • Block management can be time-consuming

If hotel room blocks are not responsibly managed, it can make the sales team’s job significantly more demanding. Additionally, some contacts require a lot of hands-on work, and in-house groups occasionally misbehave. It’s critical to have contract clauses and group policies in place to streamline group block management.

Hotel room block management strategies

If managed correctly, group business can increase hotel occupancy, ADR, and overall profitability. Implement numerous strategies that allow your property to maximize block booking potential.

1. Set a group capacity cap

Determine the maximum inventory your hotel will offer for room blocks on any given date. Capacity caps are typically based on hotel seasons and predictable demand drivers (e.g., annual or major events), with hotels allowing more groups to book when it’s most profitable. Adopt blackout dates when demand is highest, and turn away group leads unless they have the budget to match the occasion.

2. Regularly review future business

Hotel forecasting is a fantastic way to identify need dates and group opportunities. Use business intelligence tools to track booking pace, pickup rates, and other future-focused data.

3. Determine when attrition is appropriate 

Some contacts won’t book a hotel group block if attrition is included. For example, a bride couldn’t control how many guests book your hotel room block. In that—or a similar—instance, it would be unfair and unreasonable to hold the contact responsible. However, a corporate agent with a pre-coordinated rooming list is more likely to agree to attrition clauses.

4. Wash group rooms 

If a group’s pickup pace is behind, the hotel can strategically “wash” block rooms, releasing them slowly for public sale. Group washing is risky, as the hotel is contracted to hold a specific number of rooms until the cut-off date. Washing a block that uses all of its contracted rooms could lead to hotel overbooking, but it pays off when done correctly.

5. Give planners more control

Instead of going back and forth—updating rooming lists and room assignments—put planners in control of their group block with tools like Passkey. Cvent’s Passkey makes booking easy, giving hotels and planners the resources to create a custom block booking site, enable real-time group reservations, integrate event registration, and more. 

6. Automate room block management  

Automating room block management speeds up the booking and contracting processes and reduces the risk of manual entry errors. Automatically score leads to identify the best pieces of business for your property. Craft pre-populated proposal templates that allow you to respond to quality leads in seconds, getting to planners before the competition.

Find out how automation can help your hotel

Hotel room block tips and best practices 

Now that you have new hotel room block strategies to work with, you can start improving the way your property manages group business. To make group block booking even more manageable, follow these tips.

  • Maintain an annual event calendar. Anything from a travel baseball tournament to college parent’s weekend could be a significant demand driver for hotels in your area. Keep a wall calendar with major events in town and upload a digital version at the end of the year, making it easier to identify repeat events.
  • Create a standard room block template. Contract and proposal templates simplify and speed up group block booking. Create a standardized contract that’s easy to customize to fit individual group needs. Outline general hotel policies, booking procedures, and other group details, including:
    • Group name and contact information 
    • Signature and billing contact 
    • Stay dates 
    • Total number of guestrooms
    • Room type distribution (how many kings, doubles, or suites)
    • Additional needs (e.g., meeting space, bridal suite, dining room) 
    • Special requests (e.g., allergen-free or connecting rooms)
  • Keep a close eye on block activity. Regularly monitor group pick-up rates from when the group opens to the cut-off date. Is the group on trend to book all of their reserved rooms, or should you begin washing the group?
  • Advertise where the planners are. Promote group blocks where planners and travel agents are likely to see them. Whether targeting couples seeking their host hotel on Wedding Spot or actively sourcing corporate organizers through the Supplier Network, Cvent makes it easy to reach more planners fast.
  • Keep notes about each hotel room block. Track how many rooms they pick up, the rates they pay, how the group treated hotel staff, and other valuable information. Which groups are most straightforward to work with? Who pays the most? Which groups book guestrooms and meeting space? Refer to your notes when assessing incoming proposals for repeat business.
  • Test group block availability. The availability and ease of booking a hotel room block can make or break a planner’s lodging choice. Whether using a 3-letter booking code, a customized event attendee website, or a personalized group web link, it should be easy for group members to locate and book a room within their block. To ensure accessibility and smooth operations, complete test bookings before sending live links to group contacts.
  • Ask for feedback. After a group checks out, send follow-up guest surveys to assess their satisfaction and identify opportunities for improvement.
    • How seamless was the booking process?
    • Why did they decide to choose your hotel? 
    • Was it easy for members to book in the group block?
    • What was the best part of their stay? 
    • What would they change about their stay? 
    • Would they consider booking with your hotel again? Why, or why not?
  • Shop the competition. Regularly complete group rate shops to see how your competitors target groups. What room rates, planner perks, or stay packages do they promote for block booking? Review their published rates daily, sign up for their loyalty program, and thoroughly assess the comp sets’ group marketing strategy. If your hotel is slow but competitors are booming, consider taking a quick drive through their parking lots. Look for buses, company car labels, or other signs of a group block.

Create a hotel room block strategy that works for your property

Now that you know what hotel room blocks are and how they work, you can start booking better groups. To help you make the most of negotiations and block contracting, we’re exploring five ways you can grow and own your group business

Headshot of Cvent writer Kimberly Campbell

Kim Campbell

Kim is a full-time copy and content writer with many years of experience in the hospitality industry. She entered the hotel world in 2013 as a housekeeping team member and worked her way through various departments before being appointed to Director of Sales. Kim has championed numerous successful sales efforts, revenue strategies, and marketing campaigns — all of which landed her a spot on Hotel Management Magazine’s “Thirty Under 30” list.

Don’t be fooled though; she’s not all business! An avid forest forager, post-apocalyptic fiction fan, and free-sample-fiend, Kim prides herself on being well-rounded.

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