Five Things To Look For On A Hotel Site Inspection
When you have a short list of properties to consider for your next off site meeting or conference, you should always try to do a personal site inspection of each hotel. The place may look great on paper and the pictures on the web site look pretty but until you actually see it, touch it, smell it etc. you can’t possibly know if it truly is the right fit for your group. Here are the top five things to look at once on site for the visit.
1. First Impression – The hotel will usually ask to know your arrival time at the hotel or may even offer to pick you up. They like to control the arrival experience and rightly so. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Whenever possible, I like to arrive unannounced. This lets me experience the real arrival experience; the one that the attendees will experience. Are the associates friendly when to you when you first arrive? Did they smile and welcome you? This is a good indicator of the level of service you can expect to experience at the hotel.
2. Guest Room – In addition to looking at the overall cleanliness of the room, you should pay attention to amenities in the guest room. Knowing your attendees’ needs will help with this. If there are a lot of females in the group, a make-up mirror may be important. If it is a lot of couples or double occupancy rooms, two sinks may be important. Whenever time and budget permit, it is always best to stay at least one night at the hotel so you can see how comfortable the bed is, if the room is soundproof from street and guest room corridor noises etc. Lastly, always ask to be shown the worst room in the hotel. Your sales person will only show you the best room view / category they have. Unless they can guarantee that your group will ALL receive this exact room type / view, ask to be shown what the “other” room types are that make up your Run of House rate.
3. Meeting Space – Unless your group is a pure incentive trip, you will probably need to use some of the hotel meeting / conference space. For many groups, this is a major component of the meeting. There is laundry list of items to consider with regards to the meeting space but here are the top items in my opinion.
a) Obstructions – large lighting and pillars can obstruct the view and make it difficult to plan seating / staging and audio visual
b) Air Walls – most meeting space will have air walls. Check to see the condition of them because this is what will be one of your four “walls” and if it is dirty or torn up, it is not what you want your attendees to be looking at. Also check in major space to see if they have double air walls – this will give you a sound barrier to whatever is happening on the other side.
c) Service Corridor – the service corridor is where the kitchen usually is and where the hotel staff are located. If it is right behind your general session, you may have noise issues. Have a look back there and ask what kind of system they use to advise the staff that there is a meeting in that room. While back there, have a glance to see how organized the “back of the house” is. Is it clean and tidy or are there chairs and banquet trays stacked everywhere? If the back of the house is clean, chances are, the front of the house (the part the guests see and experience) will also be well taken care of.
4. What’s In House? – There is no industry standard for items that a hotel will own or use so never assume. Ask about the hotel owned linen for banquets – what color is it and are there options for other colors (with and without a charge). Ask about the size of tables they use. For banquet round seating, you can have a 60”, 66” and a 72” round. If you seat 10 people per table at your awards banquet, you will want to know if they have 60” or 72” rounds. Those 12” will make a difference in the comfort of your guests. Same for the rectangle tables used for classroom or conference seating. They come in different widths (18” and 30”) as well as different lengths (6’ and 8’). If you have a group that needs a lot of writing space and it is mostly men, 6’ tables with an 18” depth may not work as well as an 8’ length with a 36”depth. Lastly, ask what in house props the hotel owns for banquet décor. This can save you from having to hire and pay a theme company to provide décor. It is even better if the hotel has an actual group function taking place while you are there so you can see the set up.
5. The Team – Within a hotel, there are many departments but the two you will work most closely with are Sales and Conference or Convention Services. These two departments should work as a team; partner with each other to service you, the customer. On your site visit, ask to meet a representative from the CS department. Understand that the person you meet will necessarily be your CS manager. But, it is important to see the willingness of this department to take a few minute out of their very busy schedule to meet you and ask if you have any questions for them as they relate to you making a decision on a host property. Another aspect of the team is to ask the question about the ownership and management of the hotel if you do not already know. Do not assume that the hotel is owned and managed by the company who has their name on the building (I wrote a blog about hotel ownership if you need further clarification as to why this is important).
This is my top five things to consider on a site inspection. Before going on a site inspection, have your check list made up and have it in hand as you walk through the property. Take notes and photos as I guarantee you will not remember all the details when you get back to the office.