8 Housing Alternatives for City-wide Events

When there are more attendees than there are available hotel rooms in town, you have to get creative with housing alternatives. Kenji Haroutunian, vice president and group show director for Emerald Expositions’ Outdoor Retailer Winter and Spring Markets, knows the feeling.

His popular shows take place twice a year in Salt Lake City, a destination the outdoor recreation industry loves but one that has a limited number of available hotel rooms. Calling housing his “biggest challenge,” Haroutunian shares some of the alternatives he and his team have come up with.

Expo: What are the options besides the standard convention hotel?

Kenji Haroutunian:

• Dorm rooms at the University of Utah

• Hotels in “the next town out”

• Private homes

• B&Bs

• Dorm-style housing at the Olympic Village (built for the 2002 Winter Olympics)

• Nearby apartments that occupants move out of for a week…a type of sublet.

Expo: Who uses these alternatives? 

Haroutunian: Primarily those who get on board late and have no other options. Also, those looking to really run on a tight budget…these options are often less expensive per night.

 

Expo: What tips do you have for other show managers who find themselves in need of alternative housing for attendees?

Haroutunian:

• Be very clear with your audience that these options are not vetted and that there is a risk.

• Make sure to connect the dots with transportation support, like bus shuttles and public transportation connections. We produce a transportation guide for the shows that helps expand the idea that the show is a “citywide” event.

• Promote events, services and restaurants that are a few miles out from the convention center to encourage the idea that attendees aren’t staying in the “hinterlands.”

• Use and update maps of the metropolitan area—not just the neighborhood surrounding the convention center—showing where residential and next-town-out options are.

• Support events that connect with your audience but happen in surrounding communities.

• Identify and move people occupying downtown rooms who are not direct stakeholders in the show or industry. This may seem like “rough handling” but, if a show manager is drawing more buyers into those rooms and driving the show value up, everyone will cooperate.

• Consider providing alternative transportation options besides rental cars (which also sell out weeks in advance of the show). Our Bikeshare program called Park n’ Pedal gives show attendees an option for getting to and from further out services, restaurants and lodging, and encourages exploration and exercise.

• Pedicabs and other alternate transportation options can be utilized, and even sponsored by exhibitors to offset costs.