It's tough to make a criticism of a Nats convention hotel here in the USA without coming off as a bit whiny. We're simply at the mercy of the venue the host chooses to use. They, on the other hand are at the mercy of the "calculus" Nick describes in balancing costs vs. what we cheap model building convention goers are willing to pay (and we make Scotts look like drunken sailors! !) And, the E-board, who ultimately decides which host gets to throw the Nats is at the mercy of who bids, IF more than one host does for any particular year....
Are some hotels and "chains" better than others? Sure...and even within certain chains some franchise owners are better than others, so that's why one Marriott might not measure up to another. It's tough to beat Embassy Suites...I mean- FREE HAPPY HOUR and FREE BREAKFAST!?? But not every city/host has one of those available. And, some cities have great convention centers but NO connecting hotels, meaning we have to walk more than we want. And parking? Heck, we've been VERY fortunate for the most part so far....I paid $65+/day in downtown Philly this last summer (off site too)! I cannot recall any convention approaching that (yet).
Want to talk Nats hotels? How about the MOTEL used in DC in the 80's? How about the Phoenix show hotel where we had to walk 3 blocks in 100+degrees to get to the convention center (but there were nude statues to cavort on along the way....)? Or the hotel (Oklahoma?) where the second floor on one side of the main lobby didn't connect to the 2nd floor on the OTHER side of the lobby (very sad story behind that one actually)? Or the downtown Miami hotel where you might not want to linger in the parking lot or tour the neighborhood it was in? Or the St. Louis hotel that had banquet rooms SO small that many of us had to watch the awards via closed circuit TV? And those are just MY experiences.....
The solution is to simply reserve and stay where it suits you. While most modelers actually scrimp and save a few bucks by opting for a local motel and NOT staying at the convention hotel; you can always book yourself into a hotel with ALL the amenities you're seeking, even if it costs a few bucks more per night. Don't like walking? Find a cheaper motel and use the difference for cab fare back and forth. In other words, MAKE it work out so you get what you want or need when it's not handed to you.
The bottom line is that every host does the best they can to give the best "bang for the buck". Some hosts are simply better off when it comes to a hotel chain and convention center combo. Others have to take what they can and make the best of it. I've never know ANY of them to not try to give us the best that they can for the price range we've all become accustomed to expect for a Nats. We're accustomed to "rock bottom" prices and we've actually been spoiled more often than not for those low prices!
And as for working a "deal" with a chain.....that's been tried and tried. The sad truth is that IPMSUSA is not worth their time and effort, especially when they look at all of the other business conventions that use more room nights and less floor space than we do. We come with some baggage (space needs) that most conventions our size don't; and we just cannot compare or compete with the others. And then there's the fact we tip lousy.......so do NOT look for us to work any deal with anyone nationally anytime soon.
I have to agree that in the end, it's the SHOW that sticks in my mind more than any hotel room much more often than not. And, even the shows with less than ideal hotels often seem to become funny stories and flavorful backdrops to those shows where we had to be inconvenienced a bit.