Regarding the Current Hotel Situation
The furry fandom, along with the Toronto and surrounding furry communities at large, are growing fast. So, too, is our convention. Between 2017 (our first year at the Westin) and 2022, Furnal Equinox grew from 1,500 attendees to just over 2,000. In 2023, we had over 3,300 in the same venue despite fewer rooms, a result of construction still ongoing for 2024. This growth speaks volumes about the event we run, and the trust the community has placed in us.
This brings us now to the current state of bookings and our venue. First, to address the elephant in the room: we’ve experienced several serious issues with hotel booking and room availability this year. Communication difficulties have been central to this, and this letter is meant to address some of those.
Communication with the Venue and Our Business Partners
There have been many issues here. Beyond surface level difficulties reaching business partners, sometimes for over a week at a time, several other problems arose: the hotel allowing people to book into our blocks before they opened; rooms rarely showing up in the Marriott booking portal even when still available; and continued construction on the hotel, which is taking far longer than we, as an event, anticipated. This means we’ve had to spend extra time reaching out and extra time checking bookings, and doing so has been extra taxing on Furnal Equinox staff.
We have also had several new contacts with the venue in the last several years. It partially resets our relationship again each time this occurs. Matters are never handled in the exact same fashion between contacts, and norms, communication lines, and expectations need to be reestablished each time. All of these factors combined have significantly complicated our planning this year.
Communication Inside and Out
The other matter concerns communication within the convention, and publicly to the rest of the community.
With our recent growth and success, we’ve had to adapt to rapidly changing conditions and circumstances. As such, we’ve continued adding new staff. As staff come in, change roles, or move up within the organization, we once again see lines of communication, internally and externally, get broken and rearranged, much like with the venue. Teams who have historically talked to each other a lot may not be doing so as much due to staffing shifts, leading to gaps in communication among the team. This sometimes hits a point where some team members are surprised to learn of changes internally. While we are doing what we can to improve this, Rome was not built in a day, and neither was Furnal Equinox. There are many moving parts and running a furry convention—even on a normal day—is far from simple.
It’s then perhaps little surprise that some of these challenges with communication get passed on to you, our attendees and community. We have frequently heard about attendees feeling as though they’re in the dark—and a fair number of those times, this has occurred when some or even all of us, too, are in the dark. Oftentimes our publicity teams need time to check your questions with other teams running events and departments. Beyond that, we sometimes need to reach out to business partners or our venue and are caught waiting for answers.
This all brings us to the last piece, and the original reason for this letter: our hotel opening for FE2024.
Learning the Hard Way
Given our growth and the challenges outlined above, our hotel team was given the challenging task of coming up with the best way to proceed with our hotel block opening, fitting several thousand attendees into a few hundred rooms.
As outlined in a previous post on the topic, we saw three options before us: 1) A lottery; 2) a tiered system; or 3) a free-for-all (which we used last year, and we’re sure no one needs a reminder of how well that went.)
Option 3 was out. Option 1 was the scary L word. A bad word. Maybe, in hindsight, not as bad as initially thought—but we didn’t have the luxury of hindsight with the clock ticking, options limited, and all these challenges staring us down. As such, option 2 was chosen, and then expanded to each attendee tier, so as to mitigate effects of a free-for-all booking as best we could.
The community’s ensuing enthusiasm for our event took us aback yet again, and we could only watch as our numbers skyrocketed past our expectations—which, once again in hindsight, were likely lower than they should have been— and our available room capacity. Due to this, while we will be releasing the remainder of our open rooms to the general public, there are very few that remain at this time, except with our partner hotels.
Please understand this was never the team’s intent to happen. We’ve had to come to terms with these mistakes, and the fact that we’ve learned a number of lessons the hard way this year. It hasn’t been easy for us, much like it hasn’t been easy for you. We’ve tried to improve the process these last two years, but they’ve panned out far from what we hoped for.
We apologize for these mistakes this year. Going forward, we are working to better our communication, both internally and with our attendees. We will do our best to increase the planning and lead time for bookings and simplify the booking system in the future. We are considering our options for booking in 2025, be that a lottery, better designed tier system, or otherwise. We don’t know what that solution will look like right now.
While we are not at liberty to elaborate much on future plans with regards to our venue, know that staff are planning ahead and considering many options.
Additional Closing Notes
There are several other points we’d like to mention.
Just as in previous years, we reserved the vendor block before any hotel opening. Given we have a similar number of rooms in this block and expect to accept a similar number of vendors between 2023 and 2024, we anticipate we will have enough vendor rooms available, and possibly a few left over once vendors have booked. Further updates will include information for accepted dealers seeking to book rooms.
Rumors of Link Sharing
There have been rumors that room booking links may have been shared. While this is indeed the case, our team is still cross-checking registrations with room bookings. Any bookings with names not matching lists in the corresponding blocks, and any bookings found in violation of our policies (e.g. any rooms beyond the first one booked by the same attendee) will be removed.
As such, while link sharing can happen, the cross-checks mean that booking from a shared link wastes both our time and yours.
Thank you so much for your patience and understanding throughout this process. While we can’t go back and undo mistakes that were made, we can learn and improve from them, and that is what we, as a team, fully intend to do going forward.
Avalanche – Chaos – Eilowny – Haven – Mune – Spysat – Twitchy
The Furnal Equinox Chair and Director Team