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Sleeping Room Deposits for the 2003 SIOP Conference

Youll notice that we have implemented a one-night sleeping room deposit for the upcoming SIOP Conference in Orlando.  Heres why weve taken this action.

We know from member feedback and surveys that almost all of our members want to stay in or very near the SIOP Conference hotel when they attend the Conference.  Last year in Toronto, we reserved over 1400 sleeping rooms on peak nights at the Sheraton Toronto, which was our Conference hotel, and across the street at the Toronto Hilton.  Based on our history at prior SIOP Conferences, this should have been adequate to meet our needs.  But, as many of you know, the rooms sold out quickly, and a large number of members who wanted to stay at the Sheraton or Hilton had to book rooms elsewhere.

Then during the 4 days prior to the Conference, over 30% of the SIOP Conference room reservations at the Sheraton and Hilton were cancelled.  Thats more than 400 lost sleeping rooms per night!  Although weve seen more last-minute cancellations every year for the past 3-4 conferences, this was almost three times the rate of last-minute cancellations at the 2001 SIOP Conference in San Diego.  The vast majority of the rooms that were cancelled were booked at least 9 months prior to the conferences, likely before individuals could determine whether they would truly be able to attend the Conference.  We also discovered that many individuals were booking multiple rooms (up to 15!) for the Conference, presumably in case friends or colleagues needed a room at the last minute, then canceling all but one or two rooms 1-2 days prior to the Conference.  Because the cancellations were done so close to the Conference, we had no chance to let participants staying at other hotels know that space was available in the Sheraton and Hilton.  We know that many who stayed at another hotel would gladly have shifted their reservation to the Sheraton, if they had known that space was available.  These cancellations also meant that SIOP failed to meet the room guarantees we had made with the Sheraton and Hilton, and this cost us $60,000.

To ensure that we do not encounter the same problems in Orlando, we have asked our conference hotels to require a one-night room deposit.  This deposit is fully refundable for anyone who cancels their reservation at least 90 days prior to the first night of their scheduled stay.  For anyone who cancels less than 90 days prior to the Conference, the deposit is non-refundable.  We looked at how other conferences such as APA manage hotel room cancellations and talked with hotel officials to get ideas on how we could do this in a way thats not a burden to our members, and this is what was recommended.  Provided we can avoid a repeat of our room cancellation problem in Toronto, we expect to have an adequate number of sleeping rooms to meet our Conference needs.

There are no financial benefits to SIOP from this arrangement, other than that we hope to avoid paying any room guarantee fees in Orlando.  The hotel will keep any forfeited room deposits none of this money will be given to SIOP.

If you have any questions or concerns about this policy, please email the SIOP Conference Chair, Jeff McHenry, jmchenry@microsoft.com.


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