If you are planning a wedding or special event, chances are you will want to book a room “block,” or set number of rate-protected rooms, at a hotel in close proximity to your venue. Like any aspect of event planning, there are many questions and considerations involved with this process. On the hotel and venue side, our team handles these requests on a daily basis so we thought it would be helpful to share some insight into how the process works at Airlie. Answered by our own Director of Rooms, Suzanne Gilmartin, here are our top frequently asked questions about setting up a room block.
How does a room block work?
Like everything in life, it depends. For a wedding or social event, where the couple or planner is not financially responsible for the rooms, it works like this: Couple or planner (the client) works with Airlie’s sales team (and be assigned a specific Sales Manager) to set aside a group of 10+ rooms for specific dates at a protected rate for a certain period of time. The room block, as described above, will expire 90 days prior to the event date. Once the block has expired, the unreserved rooms will go back into regular inventory, and available to the public at the current prevailing rate for those dates.
Why is my room block rate different than the current rate online?
The rates are different, as you are contracting a block (or group) of rooms. It is essentially a promise between the hotel and client that you will use multiple rooms on certain dates and upon entering into this agreement, the hotel offers a negotiated rate that will be lower than the published rates. That being said, the rates fluctuate seasonally, and are based on occupancy, so cannot be compared month over month.
Will the rates fluctuate?
The rates will not fluctuate within your block. You are guaranteed the contracted rate as long as you are booking within the parameters of the block agreement – in other words, you reserve your room before the block expires. In Airlie’s case, this is 90 days prior to your event. At some hotels, rates may fluctuate within a room block based on room type. For example, rooms featuring a certain view or bed type (double, king, suite), but this would be outlined in your contract and the rates discussed with you prior to signing. Another instance that may cause a fluctuation in rate would be if the initial number of contracted rooms was exhausted and you required more. Depending upon the occupancy at the time, the hotel may raise the rate on additional rooms, but this is usually still lower than the prevailing advertised rate. These are the basic principles of supply and demand. Similar to booking airline tickets; as the seats sell out, the ticket price increases.
Why is the cut-off date 90 days in advance?
This cut-off policy pertains to wedding and social event room blocks at Airlie. Since we are in essence holding rooms aside that have not been reserved or paid for, we need to have time to recover those reservations should your guests not need them. Historical data shows that three months is enough time for us to do that. In addition, the room block is a courtesy the couple or event planner can provide their guests without being financially responsible for the rooms.
Can I extend the cut-off date if my guests haven’t fulfilled the block?
We always answer this on a case by case basis, as there are many factors to consider. They include occupancy, pick-up (or booking) pace of the group and demand for that time. Should the parameters fit the request, we will extend to allow guests an opportunity to book. However, we strongly encourage the couple or event organizer to reach out to their guests regularly to place a sense of urgency on booking. If the block cannot be extended, guests could still reserve a room with us at the prevailing rate, if rooms are available.
Can I book a block of rooms without hosting an event at Airlie?
Currently, we only contract room blocks in conjunction with an event held at Airlie. In addition to hosting beautiful Virginia wedding ceremonies and receptions, we also are available to book for rehearsal dinners, farewell brunches, bridal and baby showers, birthday parties, family reunions, anniversary parties – really any type of event.
Will our rooms all be together?
We can’t guarantee this, however, we will take requests and try to accommodate as best we can. Airlie’s layout is unique with multiple buildings housing multiple room types. No two guest rooms are the same. This is different than most mainstream hotels, where the layout for rooms are the same on every floor, and all in one building. Additionally, we do not assign rooms until check-in.
What about accessible rooms?
We have a very limited number of these rooms on the property. If you are sure you will need a room that is ADA compliant, ask your sales manager if there is an ADA room available and request it be included in your block.
What perks do I get by reserving a room block vs. having guests reserve on their own?
Depending on the time of year, you may not be able to book a room as we are sold out due to weddings, events, and conferences. If it is before the cut-off date, the block is your safety net that rooms are available for your guests, even if the hotel is sold out outside of the block. Also, the block rate is going to be lower than the prevailing sell rate online, so we always suggest that you book early. You can always cancel your reservation (up to 30 days prior to arrival) – it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it! Guests can always reserve on their own, but they are taking chances on both the rate and availability of a room.
Will you change my contracted rate should your online rate drop below mine for the day of my event?
No. The group of rooms you have contracted were protected at a lower rate for a specific timeframe. Airlie reserves the right to amend the prevailing rate to maximize revenue and occupancy at any given time.
Do you deliver amenities (welcome gifts) from the couple?
We do not deliver amenities, nor do we hold them at the desk to hand out. This is because we do not pre-assign rooms, and unfortunately our lobby is not large enough to accommodate a large number of bags. However, you may opt to contract a private room for gift bags to be held. The Guest Services Associate will direct your guests to this room upon check-in to pick up their gift bag.
Will you give me a list of attendees?
It is Airlie policy not to share reservation information outside of the contracting party or the person who is paying for a reservation. This is for the safety and privacy of our guests.
Can I make changes to a reservation I did not book (example: for my Cousin, Aunt, etc.)?
Unfortunately not. Unless you are paying for the room, you cannot make any changes to a reservation.