3 Reasons Why 'Stay to Play' Sucks
'Stay to Play' is a relatively new phenomenon going on in the competitive sports world where teams traveling for a tournament are required to stay in a certain hotel in order to participate. They typically are said to be "discounted" but that's not always the case and I'm going to tell you why.
1. Not The Best Price
For those unfamiliar with the travel market, I'll shed some light on what's going on here.
Most tournament directors/hosts are part of larger organizations called NGBs (National Governing Bodies). NGBs are typically non-profit organizations with a mission around fostering and growing the sport in which they operate. They say their main objective is to help teams in any and every way they can but their actions don't always reflect that.
Within the last 10 years or so, travel agents have started to target this niche because they figured out the power structure in place and took advantage. NGBs and tournament directors need to make money to operate and tournament lodging is a necessary evil in competitive sports because you have to travel to play other competitive programs. Travel agents knew this but had a hard time getting much market share in this niche because people know they make 10-15% and price is the most important factor for teams.
Instead, agents started to target the tournament hosts (NGBs & leagues) and offered to give them $5 - $10 per room for letting them set up room blocks. This was a genius move for the travel agents and the NGBs but not for the teams they're serving.
Let's do the math:
[$ Hotel Cost] + [10% Travel Agent Fee] + [$10 NGB Fee]
So even if your room block averages 20% off standard rates, the team ends up paying the exact same price as if they booked it themselves (not to mention they don't get reward points, rebates, unique upgrades or other extras that come if you make a deal directly).
2. Less Options
Every team is different and even if the host organization gets a great rate, odds are that most teams don't want to stay at the hotel they choose anyways. No likes being told what they can and can't do.
Some teams value being close to the location they're playing at, others like being near restaurants and entertainment.
Some teams like the exact cheapest options, others hunt for value and some even want some luxury.
Point is - travel agents simply can't put together group contracts for every hotel available. It takes too much time and weakens their negotiating power (meaning they end up making less per room) so teams are stuck with fewer options.
3. It's A Hassle
Working with these travel agents means more work for teams.
Here's the ideal process:
Search Google to identify the best hotel based on your team's specific needs
Compare prices on top sites to find the cheapest deal
Book in a couple clicks and carry on
Instead, you have to wait for the travel agent to manually piece together a deal, add their commission, add the tournament host's rebate, then give you a special phone number and code to book. Not to mention, rooms are limited so you have to act fast or you'll end up paying a premium for the rooms later.
All-in-all, there's nothing fun about that process and teams are just now starting to realize the injustice.
Here's what I've heard 100 times from tournament hosts and the answers are always the same.
From Tournament Directors, Hosts & NGBs:
"But Ben, tournament directors, and hosts have to make money somehow so if it's not 'Stay to Play' it will come from dues and fees."
"The problem with the current model is not that tournament directors and hosts are getting compensated for lodging, it's that 20% to 30% of the price teams pay, isn't going to the hotel...
Technology can solve this through software and automation. Travel agent's time is expensive yet most of their job can be automated and put the control back in the hands of the tournament hosts.
Technology could make the percentage not going to the hotel go down to 5%-15% (counting the $10 per room that goes to the host) which would result in ~10% less that teams have to pay via the current model."
From Tournament Directors, Hosts & NGBs:
"Okay but then the bulk of the work will be put on the tournament host and we just don't have time to put it all together. Also, what about customer service?"
"Technology is available that will make it cost you less time than working directly with an agent and it will give you (and your teams) more options. You can fill out a room block request in a couple of clicks and sit back as discounted bids are sent directly to you from the hotels. It's so easy and at any time, you can pick up the phone and call a customer service rep (just like always) to help you through any problems that arise."
Now You're Wondering "What Technology Does This?"
We're called Lucid Travel and our goal is to make travel cheaper and easier for sports teams by connecting you to travel technology companies like Priceline, Hotels.com and Hotel Planner but give a percentage of every booking back to your team.
It's the same prices and options as normal but your team earns cash back everytime you book. Whether you need standard rate hotels, room blocks, car rentals or flights - Lucid can connect you to the best options and pay you for every booking.
We have software built for teams and tournament hosts, so if you're sick of "Stay to Play" and would like to see a change - tell your tournament hosts and NGBs to contact Lucid Travel.
Play more, pay less,
Lucid Travel CEO & Cofounder