Whether or not to utilize stay-to-play for your next tournament or event is a common question for many event owners, particularly those with a steady base of traveling teams. There are many benefits to event owners and destinations alike, but also some possibly negatives to consider that could help determine whether or not it’s the right decision for your organization.
What is ‘Stay-to-Play’
Stay-to-play refers to an event where participants traveling in are required to book their housing accommodations at official hotels only, versus giving teams and players an option as to what city, county, hotel, rental house or other accommodations they prefer. It has been a growing trend for event owners to gain more control over their events for a variety of reasons, typically restricted to traveling in teams from outside a 30-60 mile radius or so form the venue.
Benefits of Stay-to-Play
Create More Revenue with Hotel Rebates
One of the biggest and most obvious advantages of stay-to-play is the ability to negotiate hotel rebates and guarantee that you’ll get a significant amount of revenue in return when players book at your specific hotels. Typical rebates range from $10-$20 per hotel night booked, and room nights can range from hundreds to tens of thousands of room nights generated. This revenue can help you offset field rental costs and other general expenses without having to raise your registration rates in the process.
Generate More Free Hotel Room Comps
In addition to hotel rebates, room comps can be an equally important benefit of stay-to-play. It’s not uncommon to negotiate a free room granted for every 10 or 20 rooms your participants book through your block, sometimes in the 30-40 night range depending on rebates requested and other variables. When you use stay-to-play, you can make sure all hotels booked are more concentrated on the specific hotels you choose, versus spread out between dozens or more of hotels that make it hard to get room comps easily. Those comps can be a huge expense relief for housing your staff, officials and more.
Rack up Hotel Loyalty Points
Many popular hotel chains such as Marriott, Hilton, and many others have loyalty programs for generating points you can redeem for free nights, upgrades and more. One of the lesser known perks of stay-to-play may be that similar to room comps and rebates being easier to obtain through participants staying in the properties you choose, you can also negotiate what they call “meeting planner points” for every room night booked, essentially granting those loyalty points to you or your organization for the hundreds or thousands of rooms utilized at your event. You can use these points for vacations, staff retreats, officials and other perks that are well worth it.
Become More Attractive to Destinations and Support Organizations
For larger events, I highly recommend working with the local convention and visitor’s bureau or sports commission to try and garner support for your event. Often times they can assist in everything from expense relief, staffing, local marketing and more and their job is to bring in and assist organizations that bring traveling teams since they are mostly funded through hotel tax revenue. The more you can prove how many room nights your events are generating, the more likely you are to get better support from these organizations. Same can be said for grants and reimbursement programs which typically based their evaluations on hotel tax dollars and economic impact.
Take the Housing Burden off your Players
Some players prefer to seek out and book their housing on their own, but for many others it can be an obstacle to participating trying to figure out where to stay. Issues can often arise with players booking hotels or housing in the wrong location, or without basic amenities that they didn’t think about such as free breakfast, amenities like a pool and other elements that can affect their overall experience. There’s a science behind giving your players options, but not so many that they drown in confusion and it becomes a barrier to entry. Doing the legwork for them on which venues are best and why can help immensely.
Enhance your Event Experience
If you know and can control where your participants are staying, you have more options to provide additional ways to enhance their experience there. Hosting a captains meeting there for convenience, after parties, player gift bags at check-in, sponsor activations and more can add value to their stay and make them feel important and valued.
3 Downsides of Stay-to-Play to Consider
Can be Restricting to Participants
Depending on where you’re hosting your event, and what your participants are used to, mandating where they stay can be restricting and may be a hard sell. Offering a lot of hotel options from low end to high can help, but in general people enjoy the freedom to make their own choices.
Makes Booking Rental Houses Difficult
Most 3rd party housing companies and rebate programs don’t support rental houses, which can be a deal-breaker for some participants. For instance, we’ve hosted events in Orlando where rental houses are so common and so cheap that trying to mandate our players stay in specific hotels is an extremely difficult task that would come with a lot of resistance. With the prevalence of AirBNB, VRBO and other easy ways to to book rental houses worldwide, and the ability to put multiple families in each, convincing participants who aren’t used to stay-to-play to give that up can be a difficult task.
Stay-to-Play can be a Difficult Transition
If you are an event owner who has been running events and doesn’t utilize the stay-to-play policy, trying to make a switch can be a difficult thing for your participants to swallow. It’s more common among youth events, but often times any big change can come with a lot of resistance. Making sure you properly communicate the benefits and how the policy will be enforced will be key.
While stay-to-play is not a perfect option for every event, it has been a very successful tool that many tournament directors and event owners have utilized to enhance their events over the years. What is your experience with stay-to-play or what other questions do you have about the policy? Sound off in the comments below!