Stay-to-play policies limit attendees’ choices for tournament lodging, but they make it far easier for sports planners to track full attendance figures and accurately predict an event’s economic impact.
This inescapable fact is why many industry veterans like Serena Andrews Higdon, co-owner of Team Travel Source, advise anyone who’s not implementing stay-to-play to reconsider. Given the backlash you may receive at first, you’ll want to do it correctly from the beginning. Otherwise, you risk alienating the teams that make your tournament great. Try Higdon’s tried-and-true tips to get the ball rolling on stay-to-play.
Select the right inventory for your event and make sure it falls within a doable price range. It’s important to remember families often use these tournaments as a springboard to their vacations, especially in the summer, so avoid pricing them out from the get-go.
Proactively communicate to your teams. Change doesn’t always go over well, regardless of the circumstance. Letting everyone know stay-to-play is coming allows time for acceptance and understanding of how the policy will benefit the tournament in the long run. This includes sending frequent reminders to teams that regularly participate in your event.
Set clear expectations and enforce your rules. Clarity and consistency are the two Cs of success. Teams must fully understand what is expected of them. Also, don’t risk setting a bad precedent by letting some groups off the hook.
Reach out to new teams. Not only will this expand your participation base, but the new teams won’t be used to life before stay-to-play (at least with your event).
Set high standards for your housing company. Making the change won’t be worth it if your housing company doesn’t create and submit an accurate compliancy report. Remember, stay-to-play is designed to make your life easier.
Create reasonable exceptions for teams living in the host city or athletes with family members in the area. You may also want to allow families to redeem loyalty points toward a free hotel room. Lastly, a discount for military families is a nice touch.