What to look for on a hotel site inspection visit.
1. How you are greeted upon arrival by the bell staff reminds us that first impressions count. Is this area well-staffed and there are plenty of employees greeting guests and carefully driving cars through the valet area? Are their uniforms updated, clean, and fitted? Are they pleasant and friendly, wearing a warm and welcoming smile? This is your guests’ first impression of the place you are bringing them to stay and meet. Make sure the hotel’s style matches that of your own brand messaging. This same method can also be tested on the hotel’s operator, who gives a first impression when someone calls the hotel.
2. Is your sales manager in the lobby waiting to greet you? I thought all hotels sales managers were trained as I was—to be ready and prepared to meet you upon arrival at the hotel. Nothing goes further than the feeling you get knowing your arrival was anticipated and planned for and that you are the most important thing happening in that sales manager’s life on this day, at this moment. This little but effective touch will let you know how well management is training their staff and in turn, how well your guests will be looked after during their stay. The best hotel directors of sales train their sales managers on this technique called “meet and greet.”
3. Has the sales manager prepared in advance to show you exactly where your meeting and banquets will take place as well as the variety of guest rooms and suites you need for your guests? So often hotel sales managers don’t take the time to go through your agenda prior to the site visit and you end up seeing meeting space you’d never need and room categories you don’t want. A well-trained sales manager has done their homework prior to your arrival through the many conversations you’ve had as well as taking the time to research your organization to completely understand who you are and why you are having the meeting. This will show you how valuable your business is to that hotel…or not.
4. How recently was the hotel renovated? Are the guestrooms, suites, meeting rooms and public areas updated? There are some hotels who could use some renovating; however, their cleanliness and level of service can be so top notch that one can overlook some worn-out upholstery. When it comes to cleanliness there are no excuses. If I saw a dirty hotel I would end my site visit then and there. Dusty baseboards, hair in the bathroom, film on TV remote controls, stained room service menus, and musty odors all fall into the category of unacceptable.
5. Always sample the cuisine and the service you and your guests will receive and spend time with your sales manager who will help you plan an effective and cost-conscious event. You can share your needs and expectations, past history as to what has pleased your executives and what to avoid, and work out any potential situations that could make or break the success of your meeting. While walking around the hotel does your sales manager stop to pick up any items that don’t belong on the floor? Does he/she pick up the phone and report a burned out light bulb or stain on the carpet?
6. Lastly, does your sales manager introduce you to department managers who will serving you and your guests such as conference service, audio visual, front office management and security? Meeting these individuals while you are there will help you establish a rapport with the employees who will be working together with you before your group’s arrival, while planning the meeting, and onsite when you are there with your guests. Making “friends” in advance will make for smooth conversations and built-in comfort of talking with someone you have already met and established a relationship with. Hotel employees enjoy pleasing their guests. You just have to let them know exactly what you expect and most often they can deliver it just as you like.
And, if you personally can’t make the visit to the hotel, ask a colleague or trusted friend in the city where the hotel is located to go and take a look around for you. Give that person a checklist of items so they can give you a report about the place. Better yet, have this person meet with the hotel sales manager on your behalf to answer your questions and overcome any concerns you may have. After all, you want to please and impress your guests with the hotel you select to host your offsite meeting.