No matter what kind of group travel, meeting or event you’re planning, a hotel site tour is an essential aspect that should not be left out. A site visit is an assessment tour of a destination or facility by a meeting planner to ensure that it best meets their needs and requirements prior to selecting a specific property for an event.
Your ultimate destination and facilities must be attractive enough to draw attendance, be compatible with your organization’s goals and style, and have the appropriate rooms and space to comfortably accommodate all activities. While you can use online reviews to narrow your choices and online research makes it easier to choose a venue, you should still conduct a physical site inspection before finalizing a location. Seeing a hotel or destination in person is still the best way to check its suitability for your event or conference. There are certain items you could only know about when you have conducted an actual hotel site inspection.
For example, a hotel site inspection will give you a great idea of how well the hotel is operated. Walking the hallways, staying a night, trying the restaurants and meeting employees will tell you how competent the management and staff really are. Conducting an actual inspection site will help you check items like airport accessibility, parking convenience, quality of service, meeting space and quality of food and beverage, as well.
A hotel site inspection should be conducted after you have done your research and gathered information from several hotels. You should already have an idea of whether or not it will meet your criteria. Submit an RFP with the specs, food and beverage requirements, room block, etc. but don’t just request rates, dates and space. Outline your meeting goals and objectives. Give detailed information about the purpose of your meeting, along with the demographics of your attendees. This information gives the destination and venues the opportunity to show you how they can best meet your needs and appeal to your attendees.
Here are few at-a-glance tips to get you started:
- Be sure to compare the rates and amenities side by side and select the hotels that best fit your needs from a monetary and practical point of view. If you can stay overnight, then we would suggest doing so at the hotel that you feel is the strongest candidate.
- If you are considering more than one venue, it is best to schedule your site inspection appointments as close together as possible, so you can compare the venues better.
- At the very minimum, you should visit three hotels in a site inspection, as well as get an overall view of the destination. One caution: try not to cram too many hotels or stops into a single day or in a week.
- Establish ahead of time what is most pertinent to see during the tour and which items you may want to see only if you have extra time. Concentrate on the elements that are most important to your meeting. Be sure that you are comfortable with the time allotted to thoroughly view each hotel or venue, as well as travel time between locations. Don’t overbook yourself!
- To schedule a site tour, first list the people you’ll need to meet during your visit (sales manager, office manager, head of housekeeping, the chef, convention services manager, etc.). How much time do you need to spend during the inspection? What are your priorities for the inspection? Schedule your site visit in advance to ensure that the people you need to meet are available.
- Call or email the sales manager to let them know that you will be in town on a certain date and that you would like to see the hotel. Try to schedule the visit on a weekday as most hotel sales offices are closed on the weekend.
- There is a ton of pertinent information to be relayed, arrangements to be made, and appointments to be scheduled. It’s a time consuming process which requires extensive background research just to determine which hotels are size and space appropriate. Finding which off-property venues that provide the right setting for your off-site events and finding activities to enhance your program can be another time drain. Consider using a complimentary site sourcing agency to save you time.
- You may also seek the assistance of a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) or a Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) if you are considering several hotels. CVB partners take on the pre-site responsibility of creating and delivering a complete, informative fact-finding visit for you. It’s the CVB’s mission—and area of expertise—to help you find the right fit for your meeting!
Remember that selecting a hotel after site inspections is relatively simple since you will have built camaraderie and rapport with the staff at one location.