How do I love thee? Let me count the square feet.

Posted by Mike Mason

Feb 25, 2013 1:46:00 PM

Making hotels' Space-to-Rooms Ratio work for you

As a recovering salesperson, I have a love/hate relationship with math. Sure, I love numbers with dollar signs in front of them ... most of the time, at least. But the prospect of repeating high school trigonometry gives me cold sweats.

Rooms-to-SpaceFortunately, in the world of meetings, some basic math can take you far. One simple concept is often overlooked, even though it's one of the most important factors in finding the right place for your meeting and driving fantastic hotel deals. I'm talking about the Space-to-Rooms Ratio. This is the amount of space your meeting uses for every guest room you occupy. And it’s by far the most important metric a meeting hotel uses to determine how much LOVE they can give a customer.

Every hotel has a different Space-to-Rooms Ratio -- the maximum ratio of meeting space square footage to guest rooms. In order to get the best possible deal from a hotel, your meeting space should stay within the hotel’s Space-to-Rooms Ratio. When hotels decline RFPs, it’s not personal – it’s likely a space issue. So feel free to ask up-front for each hotel’s Ratio to better understand their expectations.


Simple tip #1: Know your own meeting’s Space-to-Rooms Ratio.

It’s a simple exercise and will help you in your negotiations with the hotel. If you’re below their Ratio, then you have some big leverage to drive your best possible deal. If you’re over, you can work with the hotel to find ways to reduce it. (I've listed a few ideas at the bottom of this email). Here’s the easy rule-of-thumb calculation:


Space-to-Rooms Ratio = (Total seats by day x 20 sq. ft.) / (Total guest room block that day) 

Here's a typical four-day meeting with 100 attendees:



In this case, let's say that the hotel has a Space-to-Rooms Ratio goal of 90. This means that meetings need to to use less than 90 square feet of space, per guest room sold, every day. You’ll notice a couple of things here.

    • First, your arrival day is way under (25 sq.ft/guest room) because you’re occupying sleeping rooms but haven’t begun to meet.
    • Your checkout day, however, is very high (5,000 sq.ft/guest room). This happens with most meetings, but it’s here – around the edges of the meeting – that hotels have the greatest exposure and work the hardest to reduce the space given.

So, what can you do to reduce your Space-to-Rooms Ratio?

Simple tip #2: Focus on minimizing the Ratio on your pre-meeting and departure days to get better deals.

Hotels rarely struggle with the Space-to-Rooms Ratio during the main days of your program; it’s the pre- and post-days that will often kill the love. So, what can you do to keep the fire going? Here are some ideas on saving hotel space that have little or no impact on your overall meeting results but have huge impacts on your ratio.

    • Try to set up the room on the first main day of attendee arrival. If you set up prior to when your room block starts -- say, Saturday for a Sunday arrival -- you’ll lower your chances dramatically in finding availability and the right deal.
    • Reuse your main meeting room for one of your break-outs and dinners. Hotels would rather reuse a room set-up than use an additional room. In our example above, simply holding one breakout and the dinner in the main meeting room reduces your Space-to-Rooms ratio from 81 sqft/room to 54 sqft/room – a 33% decrease in space usage without really affecting your meeting.
    • On the last day, ask if there is alternate space you can use for breakouts. Most hotels have restaurants, suites, other areas that would work fine for your last half day of meetings. If you’re willing to do it, the hotel will show their love in $$$ of savings.


Simple tip #3: Pick room set-ups that help to reduce the Ratio.

While our handy little rule of thumb is that you need 20 square-feet of space for each attendee in a room, this number actually varies by room set-up. A typical 2,000 square-foot room can hold over 150 people at banquet-style tables; but if you insist on a hollow-square set-up, you'll only be able to squeeze in 50 or so attendees. If space is an issue with your sales manager, ask them what set-ups will help to bring your Space-to-Rooms Ratio down and help you drive a better deal.

When it comes down to it, meeting hotels are more concerned about managing meeting space; after all, they rarely run out of sleeping rooms before they run out of space. Knowing how your meeting affects their meeting space inventory -- and what you can do to help them sell more space -- will make every hotel fall in love with you. And in this case, it’s more than just roses and a nice dinner you’ll get: With the right space-to-rooms ratio you’ll be able to negotiate one hot deal. Who said money can’t buy you love?

What challenges and successes have you had when negotiating space for a meeting with a Space-to-Rooms Ratio that's out-of-the-ordinary?


Download our FREE Meeting Planner Guide To GREAT Meeting RFPs


Download the free guide and you'll learn to:

  • Book your meeting with the hotel you really want
  • Get complete bids from hotels on the first try
  • How the hotel sales process works
  • How to create a GREAT eRFP



Topics: Event Marketing

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