Site inspections are personal, careful investigation of a property, facility, or area. A site inspection allows the planner to assess everything from the general condition of the hotel and meeting facilities to the attitudes of the service personnel who manage them. Site inspections should be done at least a year or two in advance for large meetings, although many associations book as far as 10 years in advance of their annual conventions. During the site inspection planners set a time to meet with the hotel sales representative or if several hotels will be visited, the convention and visitors bureau representative for the destination. Meeting planners determine in advance the parts of the facilities they wish to tour and set a firm schedule. They review the meeting requirements and history with department managers. During their visit they take photographs of the available space from all angles and make sure that the site meets the national regulations affecting people with disabilities (i.e., in the USA the Americans with Disabilities Act).
To facilitate the process of inspection meeting planners use a checklist and ask questions. The checklist should include the date of the site inspection, the facility name, the facility address, the main phone number, the reservations phone number, the toll free phone number, the Web site address, info on online reservations capabilities, a phone number for international attendees, information on the confirmation process for reservations, the deposit policy for attendees, when the property was built, when the last renovation was and when is the next planned renovation, what was or will be renovated. The contact information should include the name, direct phone line, fax number, and e mail address for the primary contact (sales manager), general manager, catering director, convention or conference service manager, electrical services manager, audio visual setup department, security, and any other pertinent numbers.
Other information to gather includes: the distance to the nearest airport; the distance to downtown; the distance to the convention center (if applicable); transportation options and cost from the hotel to the convention center (if applicable); traffic considerations; and a listing of local entertainment, shopping centers, stores, and restaurants. Information on parking should include self parking availability on site, avail ability of valet parking, number of parking spaces, number of accessible spaces for handicapped drivers, cost of self parking, and cost of valet parking. Information on the number of guest rooms should be broken down into single, double, double/double, or king with the number of smoking and non smoking rooms in each category. The same breakdown should be obtained for suites and accessible rooms.
In the United States, one should also obtain the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which determines the hotel’s compliance with the Fire Safety Act and issues a certifying number) number of the property.
Questions should also be asked about the following:
- The air quality and the hotel’s schedule of filter cleaning.
- Is there a concierge level and what is included?
- What is the hotel’s complimentary room policy?
- What is included in the standard room rate?
- What amenities are provided in the rooms?
- Are there mini bars in the room?
- Are there irons and ironing boards in every room or will attendees have to call housekeeping to have them delivered?
- Does the hotel provide high speed data ports?
- What is the fee for use of the data ports?
- Are there multiple telephone lines?
- Are there surcharges for toll free access?
- Is there an in room safe and is there a fee to use it?
- Can guests control the in room temperature?
- What are the concierge hours? What are check in and check out times?
- Is there a resort fee?
- Is there a charge to receive faxes?
- Is there a health club, spa, pool, and costs?
- What is the portage fee?
- What other charges may be added to the guest bill?
- Restaurants (and menus), listing restaurants, capacities and the hours of operation.
- Is there room service and what are the hours of operation?
- Is there a newsstand, gift shop, business center, or other outlets?
- What is the sales tax on guest rooms?
- What is the sales tax on food?
- Is there a bed tax and how much?
- What is the gratuity or service charge percentage?
- What are the catering menus?
- List of certifications and conditions from catering contracts or Banquet Event Orders.
- How many tables of each type the hotel has in its inventory (rounds of 10, serpentine, etc.)?
- Types and sizes of chairs, number of lecterns, microphones, projectors, podiums, projection stands, easels, screens, etc. that are available.
- The hotel’s liquor policies and local alcohol laws.
- What decorations are available for use?
- What is the hotel’s cancellation and room attrition policies, standard dates to cut off the room block, peak and shoulder seasons.
- What is the hotel’s preferred group patterns are (Sunday through Wednesday, Thursday through Sunday, etc.)?
- Does the hotel provide any promotional assistance and the numbers provided (reservation cards, logo/artwork for your publications and Web site, rack brochures, etc.)?
- Information about local doctors and hospitals and the availability of child care providers.
- What sports and recreation are available on site, nearby (such as golf courses), and the costs to attendees?
- Are there any local holidays or regional celebrations and festivals on the dates that are being considered?
- Will any other group be in the hotel over the same dates and if so, who are they and how many attendees they expect?
- Is there Internet access in the guest and meeting rooms and what is the cost?
- Information on drayage policies, freight access (including the number and size of loading docks, type of loading area, truck clearance space), lift gates (number), freight elevators (number, dimensions, weight limit), if pads are required, and the maximum truck size and height limit.
- Which union performs which duties?
- Union’s contract expiration dates (to avoid potential union strikes during the meeting).
- What are the local labor jurisdictions?
- What are interior and exterior rules on signage, including sizes and locations?
- Information on adjacent hotels (including the name of the hotel, the walking distance, and the number of rooms available for overflow guests).
- Names and contact information of client references, including groups of similar size, time period, and market segment.
- Information on any anticipated ownership/ franchise changes; current owners and managers of the facility; and staff turnover statistics.
In addition to asking those questions, meeting planners obtain the following documents:
- A billing application for credit or deposit arrangements for guests and group.
- The hotel function room floor plans that also indicates the location of windows, doorways (dimensions), column sizes and locations, built in screens, stages and podiums, temperature controls, air walls, storage rooms, computer hookups, rest rooms (number of each), and telephones (number of each).
- List of available meeting rooms with dimensions (including ceiling height), capacities in various configurations (auditorium set, classroom set, banquet set, etc.), lighting (dimmable?).
- List of rental costs, floor load capacity, type of flooring, location of electrical outlets (overhead, floor, columns), and plumbing.
- List of available equipment, including forklifts, dollies, hand trucks, etc.
Krug, S., Chatfield Taylor, C. & Collins, M. (Eds.). (1994). The Convention Industry Council Manual (7th ed.). McLean, VA: The Convention Industry Council.
Connell, B., Chatfield Taylor, C.& Collins, M. (Eds.). (2002). Professional Meeting Management (4th ed.). Chicago (IL): Professional Conference Management Association Education Foundation.