Thursday, 1 October 2009

Is the conference discount on hotel room sometimes a surcharge?

Perth - Sheraton Hotel - ballroom set for conf...Image by leozaza via Flickr

You stay in a hotel room. The man in the identical room next to yours is paying 40% less.

You are attending a conference. The organisers gave you a code to use when booking accommodation in the official conference hotel to receive a discount.

You make the reservation at the alleged discount and maybe never find out that the same room reserved through the hotel's public website costs far less and comes with better terms (I stumbled upon a Prague hotel offering a conference rate of EUR 88 during a recent editors' conference, the hotel website showed a rate of EUR 58 for the same date).

There are a few possible economic rationales:
- the hotel is simply using the pricing power gained from being the 'official venue'
- an intermediary marks up the rates (although sometimes the hotel itself does)
- the rates for accomodation subsidise lower charges to organisers for other services

I found a nice clarification called Why stay at the conference hotel on the website of a US computer association. They say:
On occasion, one of the many internet providers or sometimes the hotel itself will offer a few rooms in their inventory at a lower price than the conference is offering. There are often restrictions and penalties associated with these rates.

So next time you are attending a conference make sure to crosscheck the rates with the hotel website and third party sites.