By Angela Weller, AEM Senior Director of Event Services

Housing ManagementManaging trade show housing is no easy task. As someone who has been tasked with managing housing programs for AEM-owned exhibitions for about eight years, trust me when I tell you I feel your pain.

AEM participates in so many events, so I know how difficult it is to manage hotel rooms. And when you add in the complexity associated with customers and dealers, it becomes what feels like a near-impossible task. You have to consider credit cards for payment, getting people to make their reservations by a specific deadline, all of the last-second changes, not to mention all of the other planning details you are responsible for… The list goes on and on.

With all that in mind, let me share three key pieces of advice about managing AEM trade show housing programs I’ve learned from my time at AEM:

1. When and how you book is important. -- The earlier you book, the better off you’ll be heading into an event. Try and have all initial discussions on hotel needs in advance of opening dates, because the earlier you book or request your rooms, chances are you’ll get a better rate and selection. CONEXPO-CON/AGG and IFPE are held in Las Vegas, and while it was once a really affordable getaway, all of that is changing. The city continues to expand its entertainment offerings, meaning Las Vegas is no longer just a gambling or convention destination. Hotel rates and fees seem to continue to increase year over year. Our response at AEM has been to negotiate the lowest rates possible, and many hotels are focused on offering lower rates early and slowly increasing them as the show draws near.

For ICUEE, The Demo Expo, it’s a little different. Demand for hotels near the Kentucky Exposition Center and downtown Louisville is high, limiting inventory at those popular properties for both our exhibitors and attendees. So rather than requesting your entire block at these popular properties, consider dividing up your block. Put staff that are setting up and dismantling the booth (as well as the staff working the booth) at a property located a little further from the center; allowing remaining rooms for your customers and attendees. Or what about all of the popular non-hotel options now out there? Our hotel and travel site has links to Airbnb, VRBO and local RV campgrounds. These are great, affordable options for smaller groups, and they offer more comfort amenities than hotels do.

2. Avoid cancellation fees. -- We don’t ever want to charge you for not utilizing a hotel room. But when securing hotel rooms for an event, we're held to terms requiring we meet a determined threshold. Oftentimes, cancellation dates are required by hotels. If we are unable to fulfill these rooms, this may result in a reduced number of hotel rooms for the following show. We often have a list of people waiting for a hotel room and, when a room is canceled in a timely manner, it enables us to get those rooms to attendees wanting to attend the show.

We have recently re-vamped our hotel room policies, making them much simpler to follow. You can always view these on our show websites or in the hotel booking site. Make sure to note key dates on your calendar to help ensure you avoid any fee associated with a deadline date.

3. Watch out for hotel scams. -- We all like to shop around for the best deal, and it’s even better when it’s at an impossible-to-get hotel. But, if something seems to good to be true, that’s probably the case. In the industry, there are a few names for the companies that offer great prices at certain hotels. Poachers and pirates are two common ones, but really what they are is scammers. Sometimes they present themselves via email, and sometimes they present themselves in the form of relentless calls from an aggressive salesperson telling you that “Hotels are sold out and you must book now!”

Here’s how can you tell if the company is affiliated with our show or not:

  • All of our hotel communications will always have an official seal of our official vendor.
  • Our housing companies are not allowed to solicit. You'll only be contacted if you have reservations made.
  • Reach out to us at AEM and ask if a company is legit! We're always willing to review an email or details from a call you receive.

While booking hotel rooms for others will always be a challenging task, if you keep the three pieces of advice mentioned above when planning and make sure you note deadline dates, you can avoid many of the frustrations of the process.

And remember, the whole AEM planning team is here to help. 

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