Lately I have been giving Gencon LLC. a lot of grief about how horribly they handle their online housing and some of the listeners of my podcast have been giving me a hard time saying that I am whining and that there is not a better solution. That first part of that statement is undoubtedly fair but let’s not act so fast on the second piece. You see, I do think there are multiple better ways to handle housing. I shall dispense that knowledge now.
First, let’s define the facts:
Currently Gencon assigns a random housing time to each user as they login to the Gencon site for housing. That time as I understand can vary from almost immediate to around 4 hours or so. For the sake of this letter and all math involved let’s call it 0 minutes to 5 hours. Users are forced to wait until that time to actually sign up for housing. All rooms are released at the start. This generally means only users given a random housing time in the first hour or so will get a room downtown. So basically, if you are given a time over an hour away, you lose and you have no control over this. No way at all to change your fate.
There are approximately 10,000 rooms are available in downtown Indianapolis.
Over 60,0000 people attend Gencon and need a room.
I’m not great with math but I can tell you that they are around 50,000 rooms shy on that fact alone. Of course, that assumes that every single person wants their own room to stay in by their lonesome… We’ll come back to that.
Continue to assign users a random housing time when they login but release the downtown rooms in blocks. The easiest way to do this, assuming 5 hours is the longest wait time is to release 1,000 rooms every 30 minutes and have the housing times sync up to those times. That means everyone gets a fair shot at getting a downtown room. This would feel to users a lot like the original way that Gencon housing was done back when it was a free-for-all at Noon to register. The key difference is that with limited traffic because of the time slots, the servers would likely not crash. This is my favorite solution.
This one will be unpopular and I admit it is not the best way to go about housing but still, it is better than the current shenanigans we are facing. Require that each downtown hotel room be rented by at least 2 badged Gencon attendees. I considered saying 4 but I understand not everyone has that many travelling companions. 2 however, seems fair. That assures that at least 20,000 attendees can stay downtown but really it does something much more important. It stops people from double booking rooms. Currently, you get 2 attendees who are planning on staying together, booking their rooms separately in a desperate attempt to claim a downtown hotel. This change on its own should in theory very much lengthen the time between opening housing and the time it takes for downtown housing to sell out. This would of course require some extra work on Gencon’s part. They would need to ensure that their booking system was up to the challenge, which based on how it has worked in the past, that could be difficult to achieve.
This is probably the simplest idea but I am guessing is not actually doable by Gencon. Go back to the original free-for-all of everyone booking at the same time. To make this possible Gencon would need to invest in better technology to ensure that their servers could handle the traffic. This does have some negatives because you still have people booking multiple rooms for their group. If you bring back the old waiting list system that would make this idea more feasible.
This is a more long-term solution and honestly one that should be done in combination with others but here we go. Gencon should partner with other conventions in Indianapolis and challenge the city to find better solutions for their conventions. It is in the city’s best interest to work closely with their conventions so as not to lose them. So what would the city do? They could subsidize the construction of more hotel properties downtown for one. That would be the biggest bang for their buck. I’m not a city planner but I am certain there are other alternative housing sources they could also seek. Still, I think getting more hotels downtown would be the best solution especially when paired with one of the previous solutions that I suggested above.
So there you have it. Several solutions that all while not perfect are in my humble opinion, much better than what is currently being done by Gencon. I’m sure a lot of people will be willing to poke a good deal of holes in these ideas and also tell me that I am wrong and/or stupid, because that is how the internet works.
By the way, if you work for Gencon LLC. and what to defend yourself and/or tell me I am stupid, then by all means come on our podcast! You can find us at:
@JASlingerland on Twitter
@PodcastBTG on Twitter
In the end, this is a problem that can be solved in the long run. In the short term we can at least work to make it more equitable. So who’s with me?