Joan Eisenstodt answers additional questions from the 04.25.18 Site Selection and Inspection: Hidden in Plain Sight webinar.

1. How do you find out more about the owners of a hotel; what should raise a red flag?

As simple as it sounds, ask as part of your RFP process. In fact, you should ask who is the owner, who is the management company, and even what is the length of the management contract.

2. Knowing the owner--does that only apply for more "local" hotels, or is there a concern when you use Marriott or Hilton also?

It’s for all hotels. The name on the door does not indicate who owns it. There are Marriott-owned properties flying other flags. As an example, a Marriott client I used was owned by White Lodging and managed by White Lodging. A Ritz with whom I negotiated is owned by Host Hotels and managed by Marriott.

3. Is another way to get all costs spelled out to ask for Banquet Checks in advance?

Yes, you can ask that. I think there are a few options:

In your RFP, ask for all the costs you may incur to be included--meeting room rental, taxes, service charges, which service charges are taxed, costs for mini-bar restocking, and server costs (esp. for groups of 25 or fewer people). You’ll sometimes find this in the “Policies” and in BEOs or specifically for F&B and it is not enough. Get as much information up front before deciding which property to use and signing the contract.

4. How can you request rooms that do not allow animals due to Allergies?

First, in your RFP, ask what percentage of rooms are allocated to hypoallergenic types. Not just for those that may or may not house animals but those also that do not contain materials to which some may be allergic--like scented bathroom products, feathers in comforters and pillow, and even how many smoking and non-smoking rooms there are tho’ in the U.S. the preponderance is non-smoking.

Then when you contract, although most hotels cannot guarantee that a person who requests a hypoallergenic room, you can negotiate and hope to include language that they will do everything possible to help the guest(s) who need that. There are methods by which rooms can be deep cleaned which is another negotiating point.

5. Do hotels normally comp your room if you do a site inspection? How do you negotiate that before signing a contract?

It is sometimes done and though I wouldn’t assume or plan for a comped room, you can ask.

The practice more often today is to ask for a lower-than-rack-rate [depending on the timing of the inspection and the occupancy] for the site visit and attempt to negotiate that if you book that hotel within a certain period of time (also negotiable) that amount will be deducted from your master bill.

If you are working with a DMO (aka CVB) and they are helping you with the site visit, you can ask for their assistance in obtaining a rate or a comp.

Consider too: if you are visiting more than one hotel, determine if you should stay a few nights to experience all those you are considering since they may be very different and nothing beats an overnight stay to be able to walk the halls to check for room service trays or safety.

6. Have you heard any updates on central registry for service animals?

There are private companies to register support animals and they are not connected to the US Government. If the site you find does not have ".gov", it is a private company only.

Under the ADA, one need not register support dogs which are the only animals covered under the ADA. Emotional support animals are not covered under the ADA. For more information, here are three resources:

Airlines are changing their rules about support animals. It's best to check with your airline directly.

This may also be a useful link for airports and support animals: https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/acr/eeo_training/past_conferences/airport_civil_rights_training_seventh_national_2016_conference/media/ada/adcp_faa_service_animals_and_airports.pdf

Or this about flying with pets although airlines have updated their own rules since this was posted:
https://www.faa.gov/travelers/fly_pets/

7. Do you have an overall checklist you can share with us? Or a quick tips guide?

I am in the process of revising my checklist--it’s lengthy!--and will work with MeetingsToday to put the link up once done. It’s a work in progress.

What you can do is this--just as I pack for a trip thinking from head to toe--plan a site inspection or even beginning with the RFP checklist--by thinking of all the components of a hotel or other venue and then writing out what I want to know about each. For example and not at all inclusive of all I’d ask:

Guest rooms: How many one-bedded? How many two bedded? Are the two bedded rooms queen beds or double beds? (Or as in some non-North American properties, twins.) What are the different room configurations? How do the rooms differ--view? amenities? floor? What is the worst room in the house? (See it!) How often are rooms renovated? When are bedspreads or comforters changed or cleaned?

Meeting space: Configurations of each room with diagrams showing pillars and a request for drawings in different sets. How is HVAC controlled? How many electrical outlets are in the room? Is there a charge to use the outlets? What is the charge, if any, for the use of any furniture and sets? Resets on the same day?

How many meeting rooms have windows to outdoors? Are the windows able to be opened? How are they secured? What is the location of restrooms to meeting rooms?

Is there a guest rooms to space ratio we must meet to use the space we need?

Safety and Security: How many AEDs are there on property? How many staff per shift are trained in CPR? Where is the nearest EMT? Hospital? Fire station? What is the hotel’s active shooter plan? How are guests notified of emergencies? What is the shelter in place plan?

These are a fraction of a many page list!

8. Bed bug registry? Tell me more ... what is that, were can I get it.

Learn more here: http://bedbugregistry.com.

Also read reviews on consumer sites for complaints and set up a Google, Bing or other like alert for “bedbugs."

9. What is a hang point?

I was gonna make it more complicated. Thanks to friend, Bob Cherny, for this: “the place where the equipment attaches to the ceiling. It includes all the hardware from the ceiling to the motors.”

10. Is it reasonable to ask for dates of when rooms were painted? Some people have sensitivities to paint fumes.

Absolutely! See the response re allergies. Ask anything and everything you need to know! I’d also ask when the carpets are cleaned, with what chemicals; about any scents piped into the hotel--public and meeting space and guest rooms and halls.

BONUS RESPONSES

11. Can you provide an example of language you would use to propose a site inspection?

I’m not sure what this means! I think you are asking how would you ask the hotel to conduct a site inspection. If so, just say you’d like to conduct a site inspection.

Then provide a list of the departments with which you’d like to meet and what you’d like to see. State how much time you’d like to devote (it will depend on the size and complexity of your meeting and the number of guest rooms you expect to use, the number of those with whom you want to meet--I like to meet the GM, department heads for Loss Prevention (Security), Convention/Event Services, AV, Housekeeping, Front Office, Banquets; the Director of Catering and/or F&B; and some possible dates you’d like to be there.

Ask if it’s possible to see meeting rooms in use (dependent on whether groups in house will allow you to do so while they use them), see a banquet and, if you plan to have one, a reception, served--even to taste the food prepared for a group. (Some planners want to do "tastings"--where food is specifically prepared for a few people to get an idea of what the hotel can do. I’m not a fan! What’s prepared and served for 3 to 5 is not what a group of 50 or 100 or more will get. Thus being able to see and taste what is prepared for a group closer the size you are planning to bring will provide more information).

If you want to stay overnight, discuss the option. IF you do stay overnight, plan to walk the halls at night to see if room service trays are left out and for how long (check again in the morning); to check security--that is, if anyone notices you wandering and asks why; schedule a wake-up call to see how it works.

I always state up front that I do not want nor can I accept an amenity--something many hotels will do if they have a planner in house--because my ethics don’t allow it.

Practically, it doesn’t make sense because if it’s food, you probably won’t eat it while there. One more tip: see if they have room service especially if your group may use it. Many hotels have done away with it entirely or they have service from an in-hotel market where food is more casual and delivered in a bag versus on plates.

12. Do you get into these same questions for using a local restaurant for meeting space?

Yes – about safety, ability to use space and how and the cost, number of servers, cost of additional, safety about alcohol services, evacuation and shelter in place and other safety questions.

The only thing that is different is not checking guest rooms, UNLESS the restaurant is in an hotel and if you know people may want or need (because of alcohol consumption) to stay.

Click here to watch "Site Selection and Inspection: Hidden in Plain Sight" on demand!