Why is the ONA16 host hotel sold out on certain days already?

By on April 12, 2016

At ONA, we’re often asked what it’s like to plan one of the largest digital journalism conferences in the world, hosting nearly 2,200 journalists, entrepreneurs, academics, technologists and media innovators. The short answer is: amazing. The more nuanced answer: amazing … with its own set of logistical challenges.

One of those challenges has been predicting — years in advance — how many hotel rooms to secure for the conference.

A brief primer on event planning

If we don’t meet our contracted hotel room block commitment, we face a stiff financial penalty. So reserving rooms is a delicate balance of making sure we have enough supply for attendees without overestimating.

To get the best rates in desirable cities, this decision usually starts three years (or more) in advance. With a host of data, strong institutional knowledge and gut instinct, we book the number of hotel rooms we think our conference will need several years before that conference actually happens. We continue to increase our room block year after year, only to be amazed by continued growth, far beyond the trends suggested by our original data.

This is a good thing, but can also throw us some surprises. Like this year. So, how are Wednesday and Saturday nights already sold out? Our normal room pattern traditionally has shown fewer attendees arrive earlier on Wednesday or stay later through Sunday. To account for that dip, we reserve fewer rooms on Wednesday and Saturday.

It’s apparent now that, as the conference has grown, so have the number of attendees wanting to stay for the full duration of the conference. In the past, we’ve simply contacted the hotel to increase the room block. But this year, due to another, even larger conference in Denver at the same time, we aren’t able to do that.

What should you do?

If you like, we still have plenty of rooms available at our host hotel, the Hyatt Regency Denver, both Thursday and Friday nights. We hope you’ll book for those nights to help us reach our room block commitment. While not ideal, you can book at the host hotel on those nights and secure another hotel for additional nights (see info below on alternate hotels). We’d recommend securing another hotel with a refundable rate and checking with the Hyatt Regency Denver two weeks before the conference to see if there have been any cancellations in our block, in which case you can end up with your reservation all in one place.

If you’d rather book a four­-night stay at one hotel, we’ve secured smaller room blocks at five additional hotels near the Hyatt Regency. There are a limited number of discounted rooms available and once those are gone, rooms will be available at each hotel’s regular rate.

Finally, we’ve created a map of nearby hotels in the area with varying rates, so you can see what is nearby and select a hotel that suits you.

We apologize for any extra work this creates and know it isn’t ideal as you plan for ONA16. We appreciate the support and patience of our ever­-growing community.

See you in Denver!


Irving Washington

Irving Washington is the Executive Director/CEO for the Online News Association (ONA), the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists. As a media diversity advocate, Irving has led programming and fundraising initiatives for journalists, media professionals, and students worldwide.