In most cases, a group that wants to book a meeting, a wedding or a reunion will select the hotel based on photos and reviews online. This, however, can be disastrous since either can be misleading when compared to the actual condition of the hotel.
In addition, without a site tour, you don’t get to see all the intangibles that can’t be viewed online. For example, how pleasant is the front desk? How well staffed is the place? How clean are the public bathrooms?
No matter what kind of group travel you’re planning, a hotel site tour is an essential aspect that should not be left out.
Here are 10 tips for when you’re on a hotel site inspection
Schedule a site tour with the hotel you are considering but don’t let them know that you’ll be staying the night before if you want to see the hotel exactly how your attendees will see it when they arrive. Get to the hotel early and check in to see the how attentive the front desk really is. Things to look for are room cleanliness, staff attire, public areas, and service. To learn more about what to look for, read “What is the one thing that most people don’t do on a hotel site inspection”.
Where is the GM
Did the GM accompany you on the site tour? While most site inspections are conducted by sales managers, there are some GM’s that get very involved in sales and are happy to accompany you on a site tour. And if they aren’t at the site inspection, they will stop in to say hello and to answer any questions.
After all, you may be bringing a significant portion of business to the hotel, and his involvement from the very beginning is critical in ensuring a successful event. If the GM of the hotel you are considering seems very involved, it would seem to reason that he/she is taking ownership of the property and will take care of your group during the actual event.
Try to determine how eager the hotel is for your business. When you are there on the day of the site inspection, go straight to the front desk to ask where the sales office is (even if you know where it is). Doing so will give you an idea of whether the front desk was made aware that you were coming for a site tour. If the answer to your question is “Oh, are you here for the site tour?”, then you know the hotel is eager to have your business and even the line level employees are aware that you’re coming.
Eagerness can be seen in other employees as well. Does the salesperson seem excited that you are there? Does the GM come and greet you to see if everything on the site inspection went ok?
Ask to see a room type not on the list
Every hotel has what is called “Show rooms”. These rooms are not sold to the general public (unless they are sold out), and are kept in pristine condition just for site tours. On your inspection, you are bound to see just the show rooms. To see actual rooms that are sold to guests, ask to see a room type that you weren’t shown. For example, you can say “Can I see a handicap accessible room please?” Now you’re going to get to see a real room that your attendees will see at arrival.
Are the employees in uniform? If so, are they clean and well kept? It seems like a silly question but it says a lot about how much the hotel cares about its appearance. A hotel that does not enforce a uniform or has shabby looking ones is either not run very well, or is doing poorly from a financial perspective. Neither of those reasons bode well for your group.
During regular conversation, consider asking every manager how long they have been there. If most of the answers are in the less than 2 years camp, the implication is that the employer is not good enough to hold onto their people. The importance here is that the event you are planning is anywhere from a few months to a year or so away. High turnover in management means more uncertainty for your group in terms of service and experience.
Ceiling tiles can tell you a lot about how caring a hotel staff really is. A few dirty or stained ceiling tiles in the hallways is normal. But if you see one after another in every hallway, then that is a pattern of neglect by the maintenance department. The obvious question is “If they don’t care enough to change something as simple as ceiling tiles, how much will they care about my business?”.
Trash In the parking lot
Before you enter the hotel for the site inspection, consider walking the parking lot all the way around. Is it clean with a few pieces of trash lying around? Or can you see trash in the bushes or all around the curbs? If the parking lot is dirty, it is another signal data point that you can use when deciding on a hotel for your group.
Make them uncomfortable
Nobody wants to talk about the negative stuff, and yet it is important to clarify everything. Before going on the hotel site inspection, you should have already seen the reviews online. Consider taking some of the bad reviews on sites like Tripadvisor and asking hotel management about it.
Bring up the negative reviews to see if the management takes ownership of the problems or just skirts the issue by making excuses for every one of them. A hotel staff that accepts responsibility by saying something like “Hey, we are not perfect, and in this case, we messed up. However, we learned from it and are better off now” is the kind of people you want to be doing business with.
Cleanliness of public areas
During your site inspection, pay particular attention to the cleanliness of the hallways, the lobby, and the elevator. Is there a houseman cleaning the main public areas during your site tour? Is the staff picking up trash as they walk by it or do they choose to ignore it?
A well run hotel will not have any trash lying around in public areas since they make it every employee’s responsibility to pick it up.
Ask lots of questions
This seems kind of obvious but it needs to be said. There is no way to predict what you may encounter during your site inspection so make sure you ask any question that pops up in during the site tour. It is important that you remove any doubts about the hotel before you leave as it will help you make a more informed decision. So remember not to be shy about asking any questions, regardless of how dumb they may sound.
The tips above will help ensure that you are prepared with what to look for in your next site tour. However, there are additional details that you should not look over depending on the type of group event you are planning. After all, a site tour for a wedding room block will be very different than one for a corporate meeting.
What should you do next?
To learn more about site tours, read our articles on conducting hotel site inspections.