The following article appeared on HotelNewsNow.com on January 22, 2014:
Conventions, festivals and sporting events generate substantial business for hotels, but they require precise logistics to meet guest expectations.
By Ed Watkins
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Large citywide events—everything from conventions to festivals to Super Bowls—are great for the bottom lines of hotels in those markets, but they also present logistical, staffing and security challenges, sources said.
Issues hotel operators face range from crowd and noise control to food ordering and providing extra services to VIP guests.
“I’ve been through Final Fours (college basketball championships) and a Super Bowl, and every event is different and has different challenges,” said Phil Ray, GM of the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown. The city hosted the Super Bowl in 2012.
“One key is working ahead of time as much as possible with people who have already had these experiences to help you anticipate all the different needs involved. It also requires a lot of brainstorming and thinking through any potential scenarios and what we expect the group’s needs to be,” Ray said.
How a particular event benefits individual hotels depends on their locations, levels of service and amenities, and the type of guests attending, said Billy Finnorn, corporate director of revenue management for Expotel Hospitality. The company operates six hotels and owns another one in various parts of the New Orleans market. New Orleans hosts many citywide conventions as well as big events throughout the year, including Mardi Gras, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the Sugar Bowl. It also has been the site of the Super Bowl 10 times, including most recently in 2013.
“The impact all depends on the type of convention. They’re all different,” Finnorn said. For example, he said attendees at large medical conventions will typically stay in higher-end properties close to the convention center.
“It could be a 10,000-room convention but our property on St. Charles Avenue, which is only a mile from the convention center, won’t see a lot of compression because of the type of attendees,” he said, adding that the value of a convention to Expotel’s non-center city hotels often depends on the peak overnight stay on day of the event.
“In general, New Orleans does good weekend transient business, so it always benefits our properties if a convention peaks on a weekend,” Finnorn said. “The conventioneers take up the convention block, which displaces normal weekend business, so our hotels in Uptown and the suburbs area get additional compression.”
Special services for special guests
An event such as the Super Bowl puts a city and its hotels under increased scrutiny, and hoteliers need to be prepared to meet increased expectations.
“Most hoteliers understand these are VIP-type visitors, or they’re fans on once-in-a-lifetime trips, so they need to go out of their way to deliver superior service,” said Donna Quadri-Felitti, clinical associate professor of hospitality and tourism management at the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University. To gauge what expectations travelers coming to next month’s Super Bowl in New Jersey might have, Quadri-Felitti and Margaret Ady, marketing director of TrustYou, an online reputation management company, looked at guest reviews of hotels during the 14-day periods around the past five Super Bowls.
“The problem is it’s very hard to bump-up levels of service when they’re already at a high level. … I suggest you do the basics right but also be very attentive. If there is ever a time to overstaff, this is it,” Quadri-Felitti said.
Guests’ expectations sometimes change depending on what they’re paying for their rooms, Finnorn said. During Mardi Gras or a Super Bowl weekend, for example, at its Hampton Inn in New Orleans, Expotel charges $400 to $500 a night, more than double its typical average daily rate.
“Customer expectation levels change when you’re dealing with a $299 customer versus dealing with a $99 customer,” Finnorn said, adding the company’s VIP protocol activates when rates for its New Orleans properties go above $250 a night. He said during the last Super Bowl, the Hampton Inn provided special amenities to guests, offered welcome drinks in the lobby and posted lobby ambassadors to help guests.
All about the food
According to the NYU/TrustYou research, food is important to hotel guests during a Super Bowl. Three of the past five Super Bowl cities recorded decreases in positive reviews regarding hotel food. Exceptions were New Orleans (2013) and Dallas (2011), which recorded increases of 5% and 6%, respectively, in positive food reviews compared to the same week a year earlier.
For Ray at the Indianapolis Marriott, food-and-beverage service was one of the biggest challenges his staff had to face during Super Bowl week.
“For big events like the Super Bowl, it’s a question of the amount of product you will need and making sure you can get deliveries to the hotel and whether you have enough storage for the product,” Ray said. To keep the bars stocked with beer during Super Bowl week, the hotel arranged to have a back-up beverage truck parked near its loading dock.
The New York Giants team, which was staying at the hotel, had planned a post-game party. After their victory, team officials increased the food order by $100,000, Ray said.
“It went from what was going to be a good party to a great party and we had to be prepared for that,” he said. “The menus we developed for the event were such that we could continually cook and replenish and we pre-planned to have extra food supplies on hand.”
Staffing was another issue as some members of the banquet staff worked 36 straight hours over the weekend.
“We were running on adrenaline,” Ray said. “On the Sunday of the game we did breakfast and lunch, then the after party, which lasted until 5 in the morning. We then had to switch the space to do breakfast for 500 people.”
Link to article: http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Article/12995/Citywide-events-test-hotel-capabilities