There will be a few very important changes in the way hotel reservations (for the Estrel) are going to work in 2017. We know there will be a terrible rush for rooms again, and unfortunately that is not something we can change. But we can make the process smoother and fairer for everyone. This is what is going to change:
1) Hotel reservations will not open at the same time as EF registiation (January 7th, 20:00 MET), but approximately one week later. (January 16th, 09:00 MET)
2) Reservations will be available exclusively through the special Estrel booking website. (No reservations via phone or email)
3) A credit card will be required for your reservation. (On site payment options using cash, Maestro/girocard or credit cards remain unchanged)
But before you fire up your twitter clients to tell the world how evil we are for throwing everyone without a credit card under the bus, please hear me out and let me give an explanation why we are making these changes.
1) Decoupling start of hotel reservations from registration. The opening of our registration traditionally created a pretty stressful night for everyone involved because you first had to hammer your F5 key to get yourself into the queue as early as possible, and then wait into the early morning hours for your manual registration approval before being able to book a hotel room. Also, we used to hit the hotel with four figures of reservations on a weekend, when their offices are only staffed with minimal crew. We can change neither supply nor demand, but we will try to make the process less stressful for everyone by removing the pressure to register within minutes, and moving the initial reservation rush to a weekday, when the hotel can handle it more easilly.
2) You might have noticed that before EF22, online reservations were barely available for 24 hours, and then had to be shut down, leading to a rather chaotic and unsatisfactory situation for everyone. What you need to know is that online reservations are handled by an external service provider, and their database is completely separate from the Estrel's internal booking database. The hotel will typically assign a certain contingent of rooms to the online system, a different contingent to manual reservations, and then re-assign capacities between the two as time goes by. Eurofurence however typically burns through the entire booking capacity within hours, and if we did the "two separate room allocations" approach, at some point one system would tell you the hotel is booked out, although the hotel might actually still be half empty. So the Estrel decided put all available rooms on the website, but had to shut it down promptly because reservations came flooding in through both systems equally, creating a serious danger of overbooking. On top of that, manual reservations created a massive workload, creating days worth of backlog, while guests who booked online got their confirmations instantly, putting them at a clear advantage. It was a mess.
And that is why, for EF23, only online reservations will be accepted. This way, we can put the entire room block into one system, we avoid a lot of unnecessary work, your reservation will be instant, and there will be no second-class reservations. If the web site tells you the Estrel is full, it is full. No guessing or multiple phone calls. (Waiting list requests will be allowed after the room block sells out. This year, everyone on the waiting list could be served.)
3) Online reservation requires some sort of verification/authentication, and that is your credit card number. The web site will check your card's validity. No money will be blocked or withdrawn. There are no other instant verification methods this service provider offers. If you do not own a credit card you will either have to get one yourself, have a friend with a credit card book the room for you, or use someone else's credit card with their permission. We have been assured that prepaid cards will also work. We are sorry for the inconvenience, and we totally understand those affected might be not be very happy about this announcement. But taking all things into account, we think it's the lesser evil. We are telling you now, so you have time to prepare. Note that the actual payment still takes place on checkout, and you can still use cash, girocard/Maestro, and any major credit card to pay your hotel bill.
(Note: As always, some rooms that are not part of our own room block will be available through third party booking agencies. Booking a room through third party sites is perfectly legitimate, but these agencies operate on their own terms and conditions.)