I keep seeing people both applauding and hating the new housing block lottery, but most of the solutions offered are in the theme of "How much I deserve a hotel room downtown".
I personally like staying downtown and have been lucky to do so every year I've gone, but this is mostly because I have a friend who calls housing and lives on the website until we're all booked up. I've griped about housing too when it didn't go my way but I'd like to see some solutions that seem fair for everyone.
Solution #1 - Housing block opens to people with disabilities (requiring medical proof upon registration) on day 1, then volunteers for GenCon, then vendors, then lottery for everyone else.
Solution #2 - You are assigned a time based on how long you've been attending consecutively. Rewarding people who've been with their brand for years seems like a great loyalty program.
Solution #3 - Ebay the rooms. Really want to stay downtown? It'll cost you. Let's see what the market will take.
As none of these benefit me, I still feel like these are the "fairest" way to give those premium spots to people who need or want them. Would love to hear other ideas as well.
A discussion of ideas that might improve the system is not a terrible idea.
To make it of any use, there would need to be some limits on the discussion, any fairness arguments can be kept out of it.
The real question is if there is an actual perceived (by Gen Con) problem that they are willing to address or are interested in hearing ideas about.
It would also probably be best to follow the "Shed light not heat." guideline.
Only fix needed is to raise the price of the downtown hotels that are in block. That fixes the problem and is the right solution. When there is a difference of $150+ per night and not $50 per night more people will consider the further hotels. Right now there are still downtown hotel rooms available out of block so that goes to show it is all about pricing of the rooms on the portal not the total number of hotel rooms in Indy.
As to your solutions I wouldn't reserve any downtown rooms for Vendors. They can stay at further out hotels. They are at the convention to make money and increase their business. People running games and volunteering I don't have a problem with getting preferred rooms but not vendors. If you ran a store would you have all your employees park up front and make the customers walk a mile?
It comes down to fairness for me again, the closer I am, the easier it is for me to bring more inventory, but I do see your point.
Cap the tickets sold, raise the prices to make up the difference in revenue. Attendance around 40K tops, better experience for those who attend but they pay a premium. $160 for a 4 day badge, only sell 4 day badges.
Suggestion: for every "solution", be able to answer the questions "How does this proposed change in how housing is done benefit Gen Con?" And "What are the (perhaps unintended) negative consequences of implementing these solutions?"
I think several of the most common ideas that float around would fail to answer both these questions to the satisfaction of Gen Con.
Solution #3 - Much simpler than this would be Gen Con simply not having a housing block.
Keep in mind, Gen Con doesn't get any extra compensation for expensive rooms.
If rooms were going for $400 a night with no housing block, versus $200 with the housing block, that's just $200 the hotel is extracting from Gen Con's guests at no benefit to Gen Con.
I think the "let the market sort it out" cohort miss this important fact. Reality likely looks something like this:
A. With housing block: 4000 connected rooms at $200 a night, 500 rooms at $500 a night
B. Without housing block: 4500 connected rooms at $400 a night.
In scenario A Gen Con is saving it's attendees a net $750,000. That is money that can be spent on event tickets or the show floor.
In scenario B those who book out of block would save over out of block in A, but it's a net negative.
The amount of rooms a vendor gets to reserve in this way should be limited to avoid abuse, starting at 1 room per two badges sounds fair.
People with proven disabilities should 100% get to reserve their accessible rooms first. Not sure how many accessible rooms there are downtown but they should get the first crack at them.
I am in the "raise downtown room prices" camp. All Gen Gen has to do is arrange a "kick back" from the hotels for the difference. The kick back could be cash but it also could be free meeting rooms, free hotel rooms for VIPs, etc. There's lots that can be done.
Of course, personally, I don't see why more hotels go the route of the Homewood and not participate in the housing block. I bet the Homewood makes more a lot money by staying out of the block. But, hopefully the hotels aren't reading this.
Housing blocks are pretty commonplace. For most Magic The Gathering Grand Prix events, there are cheaper hotel rooms offered "in block", usually attached to the space where the Grand Prix is being held. When I travel for business conventions, it's the same thing. I'm not sure why GenCon would remove a housing block, as it seems to be an industry standard perk for attendees of major events/conventions.
So I'm pretty sure the small volume of complaints fielded by GenCon over the current Housing Block setup would be dwarfed by the outcry if they had no hotel block at all.
From my personal experience, every single person I know who attends uses the Housing Portal for the cheaper room cost, not for the ability to get closer rooms. If price is no object, downtown rooms are available to whomever willing to pay. Ergo, making everyone pay market value does not solve the housing portal issue in any way, it just makes it more difficult for thousands more people. Not really a great move for a business trying to please the greatest number of people possible.
There is probably some merit to increased room rates, it might provide some incentives to build more downtown rooms if they can get $400 a night for them.
But if I had to guess it would have little impact on increasing numbers of rooms.
I think in general this topic gets brought up by people flush with disposable cash, you want to make getting a room more "fair" for them.
#2 - Rewards for consecutive attendance should be lower hotel room cost, discounts on badges and event tickets (self only). This would encourage people to keep attending. Everybody should have an equal chance at a downtown room, and the system in place is handling it the best way they can right now.
#3 - Would drive the cost of attending way up and turn many away from Gen Con as hotel costs would probably rise in and out of block making it less affordable.
I like the way the housing lottery is working. I like that a first time attendee had a chance to score a downtown connected hotel room. The only thing I don't really like about Gen Con is the 10.5 hr drive it takes to get there and back. I look forward to every second of Gen Con. I dread the travel time. If the Starship Enterprise would loan me the use of its transporter, I'd just stay at my house and port back and forth as needed... but since Captains Pike, Kirk, and Picard are stingy about these things....
My fix, monorail system from airport area to the Convention Center. You can have a hotel row and parking and then a system that just runs back and forth.
But to reply to your suggestions.
#1. it is against the law (ADA act) to ask or demand proof of a disability. It violates a persons privacy to ask about a medical condition. So that won't work. And as stated, the ADA compliant rooms are separate from the block already. Volunteers and vendors are blocked separately also in most cases. But this was a good idea in general!
#2. I would love this! This is my 22nd year as it is for the people going with me. The problem I can see is that no new growth for the convention. As long as old timers like me are around no noobs get get rooms. This is bad for the convention as eventually guys like me stop attending and the noobs stop trying to get rooms after a few years of futility. Maybe give a person a few more "lotto balls" for the years they have been going?
#3. The hotels would not allow this. Most They are not going to give Ebay or anyone else a share of that room fee. The hotels tend to like housing blocks as it guarantees the rooms will be booked. This has not been a problem as of yet with this convention, but look at last year when Indiana passed the law that caused all the commotion with the Gay wedding cake thing. People were talking about boycotting GenCon and Indiana. The hotels (i am sure) have an agreement with all the conventions that the rooms in the convention block WILL be rented and a penalty (fee) if they are not. The convention likes them because it holds those rooms no matter what else happens.
Also this convention is expensive enough for most attendees. No need to make it more so. Remember the more money spent on hotels, the less spent AT the con!
My suggestion is to partner with Uber or one of the other ride share companies. The Buses seem to be unreliable at best, and the cabs are too few or busy elsewhere. Maybe someone like Uber can arrange their drivers to have a regular stop point at the con. Uber drivers would have steady passengers and the con could have more options for the guests. just a thought.