Money, revenue, the bottom line. It is the primary reason why many conference departments exist. Get your university more money.
At this year’s annual ACCED-I conference, we led a session taking the revenue discussion outside of the box. We looked at activities and programs from others campuses that utilize campus space for additional revenue in an innovative direction. In our session, we shared the ideas as well as pros and cons for each.
We’re not talking about your standard conference setup – these are ‘add-ons’ that can help go above and beyond the norm.
First, ask yourself:
- Do you book social business (reunions, parties, showers, etc)?
- Do you have any unique academic facilities (observatory, teaching kitchen, ropes course)?
- Are you located in the colder climate (northern US or Canada)?
- Are you located in or near a tourist destination, major city or major attractions?
If you said yes to any of these, we definitely have some ideas for you! If you didn’t… don’t worry, you might still be able to take advantage of the info here. It might even spark a new idea specifically for you.
Idea #1 – Unique Packages
Unique packages are one way to offer add-on services. The first step is to look at your facilities on campus… ALL of your facilities. What could you do differently with them?
Once you have the data, then determine what it would cost you to set up these spaces for that usage. Who could you sell it to? How much could you charge to earn extra revenue?
This could be aimed at existing customers to add-on to their current agenda. Or it could be something you market to a NEW customer to get them to book business with you.
Here are a few examples of add-ons some campuses are doing:
- Offer the campus observatory to residential groups as “star-gazing nights” at a per-person rate.
- Decorate a function room using a high level themed decor (such as seasonal themes or dramatic lighting). This pre-designed space is then available to conference groups at a higher price.
- Offer ice time and skate rentals at a per person rate if you have access to an ice rink. This could also be an option for team building events.
Idea #2 – Snowbird Housing
Take this term and flip it on its head.
Those that live north in the summer and head south for the winter have become known as “snowbirds.” Many no longer want to maintain a home in both places, or some wish to spend their summers in lots of different places.
Take advantage of this and offer snowbird housing for those making the trek north and south and back again.
For example, the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University in Minnesota and University of Wisconsin Green Bay both started their Snowbird programs in 2003.
Over the years, they have experienced an increase in revenue, an average of 50% per year. In one case, the first year to the most recent year yielded a 2000% increase in revenue; the first year they had 3 couples stay with them, now they have over 30.
Idea #3 – OTAs (Online Travel Agents)
Do you have rooms that sit empty? Maybe you have space set aside for specific use. Or you know you have spaces available which did not sell for your conference season.
Try selling them online as hotels do. Think sites like hotels.com or Travelocity.
Use your nicest campus spaces (apartments, suites) as hotel rooms and you can sell rooms whenever you like and however many you like.
This allows people to stay on your campus just as they would a hotel. No meeting rooms, no A/V, no set up. Just a place to sleep for 'transient' guests.
How does it work?
- Contract with one of the OTAs and then create your listing on their site.
- Establish what inventory you have to sell along with the dates and rates. Then upload the information to the OTA.
- Once uploaded, the OTA does the work. When you get a reservation, you will receive an email with the reservation information.
- You will need to make sure you update booked inventory and dates in your campus system to ensure the booked space is removed unless your conference management software system offers a dashboard platform to handle all this for you.
Tip: The more photos you have, the higher your ranking.
Whatever payment you require up front (full, first, fixed), the OTA will take and process the payment for you. Do keep in mind, they do charge a fee; most OTA’s run between 10-20%.
Our full slide deck also walks through the benefits and risks of each idea. You can download the slide deck by clicking on the link below.
If you are attending C3X, the 2017 NACAS Annual Conference, join us for our session on this very topic. You can dig a little deeper, ask questions and participate in more idea generation!