Hotel site inspections are one of the most important aspects of the entire program planning process. It is often a planner’s first impression of their leading hotel contenders. From valet and porter greetings to the ease of check-in and entering the guest room, every interaction offers a peek into what their future attendees will experience.
By taking note of the décor style and indulging in the overall vibe, planners are able to imagine whether the property might serve as the perfect backdrop for their big event. Walking the meeting space, testing the banquet food and service, and tasting the house wines on the menu provides a preview of how their meetings will run. All of these elements are pivotal checkpoints for planners as they decide which hotel will be the best fit for their group.
Now that site inspections have mostly transitioned to virtual, it can be far more challenging for planners to gain a full scope of the property. While live site inspections are slowly returning, we know changing budgets, travel policies, and time constraints mean that virtual site visits are here to stay.
At Achieve, we’ve been going on many virtual site inspections with our clients. Together, we have gained a lot of insight on how to make them even more productive and more personal. In this blog, we teamed up with our dear friend and award-winning meeting planner, Ann Luketic, CMP, CMM, to share four tips on how hotels can deliver a wow-worthy virtual site inspection:
1. Prepare for a seamless viewing experience
Don’t use cell phones to host a virtual site inspection as they provide a poor viewing experience. It would be better if hotels are able to produce a high-quality video tour of the entire property, allowing the salesperson to play the video, navigate through each space, pause as necessary, and show their face on-screen, making for a much more personal and interactive experience.
If your property isn’t able to produce a video, schedule more than one person to give the tour. It can be very distracting to have the same person filming as they walk through the space. You tend to see very tight shots of the hallways and transitions and don’t get the true experience of a walk-through. A second person can provide a wider view of the space while the host showcases the features of each room. It’s also important to make sure that all spaces are accessible. There were several times during a recent tour where the meeting room doors were locked and we were unable to see key spaces required for our event.
2. Plan ahead & send advance materials
Reviewing a 5-acre hotel property within a computer screen can be a bit overwhelming. Consider mailing large, printed maps and floorplans ahead of the virtual site visit, that way planners can better orient themselves with the property during the video tour.
Prior to the site, share an agenda with all of the spaces that the tour covers. Ask planners if there are any additional areas they would like to have highlighted. I prefer to experience a tour as if I were an attendee at the event. As I arrive on property and navigate through the space, I like to note what the attendees will see and experience. This information is useful when planning for staff to greet the guests as well as signage to direct them throughout the event. If possible, schedule the site tour when the majority of the meeting space is set for an event so that planners can see more than an empty ballroom.
3. Incorporate fun & engaging experiences
Spending an hour or two watching a virtual tour of lobbies, meeting space, and guest suites can get a little dull. Spice things up by having your on-property mixologist showcase your specialty cocktail. Interview one of the longest-serving team members to learn a bit about their story. Add a trivia game at the end to ask questions. Remember, planners make the fun happen for everyone else. Show them you want to give them a unique experience, too.
This is the time for the venue to showcase their space and services. While the sales staff is very knowledgeable in each area of the venue, it would be beneficial to hear from other staff members who can dive deeper into their own area (i.e: have the banquet manager speak about meal setups and discuss how they are adapting to the new COVID-19 requirements).
4. Don’t forget the personal touch
It is very common for hotels to send planners a preferences questionnaire ahead of a site visit. Just because a site is virtual doesn’t mean you can forget about this step! Make sure to send planners a questionnaire to get to know their preferences, their reasons for shortlisting your hotel, and what their planning hot buttons are. Consider sending along your own completed questionnaire so your partners can get to know you, too. This will also help to build rapport during the site. When all of the site attendees have more knowledge about one another, it sets a stronger foundation for engaging and organic conversations.
Each venue has a certain energy, which a planner experiences while on-site. Normally, we are exposed to a variety of sights, sounds and smells as we walk through the venue. Prior to the tour, send the planner a few items to immerse them in the experience (i.e: a seaside resort might send a candle that smells like the ocean or a signature item that is included in the guest rooms).
As with any good partnership, communication is key. All partners should have a conversation ahead of the site inspection to get a real grasp of what the planner is expecting and what wows them. The more time that is spent preparing for and customizing the site visit, the better the experience will be.
What has been the best virtual site tour you’ve experienced? Share your thoughts with us on social media — we’d love to hear your own ideas and insights!
Ann Luketic, CMP, CMM, is a senior meeting professional for Progressive Insurance and manages the execution and strategic design of Progressive’s agent events. She has almost 30 years of experience in event management and marketing in the Financial Services Industry and has worked for several of Northeast Ohio’s Fortune 500 companies. Throughout her career, Ann has planned and executed thousands of corporate events ranging from intimate incentive trips to large-scale experiential events in excess of 6K attendees. In addition, Ann is an instructor at a Corporate College where she teaches Fundamentals of Meeting and Event Management.