Post-COVID Hotel Conventions
Submitted By Most Illustrious Companion Kevin B. Sample
Grand Recorder, Grand Council of Missouri

Kevin Sample
MIC Kevin Sample
 

Companions, as we start to resume business-as-usual and even face-to-face grand sessions, I was asked to express some lessons learned from our 5-day Missouri Grand York Rite sessions last week and our relationship with our hotel. Maybe it will help some of you in your planning.

The pandemic wrecked the hospitality industry. They took a heavy hit as all can appreciate. They have experienced a 97% loss of employees and are struggling to refill many of those jobs. Many jobs are now being filled by less experienced people. Additionally, in some cases, they have changed the way they do business. Here are a few of our lessons learned:

Pre-Convention meetings – ask the hard questions

  • Are there enough staff to handle room setups, changes, and refreshes in a timely manner?
    • We experienced many hotel staff working 16-hour days to meet needs and expectations, things slipped, but they were working as hard as they could
  • Are there enough staff to handle quality food preparation and service?
    • Most kitchens are working with limited and/or new staff that may not be able to deliver the quantity and quality of meal preparation you are used to
    • The way meals are served will vary depending on where you live and current environmental conditions, e.g., plastic ware, single-serving drinks, plated meals or meals served in to-go containers, how condiments are provided, etc.
    • Hotel restaurants may not be capable of keeping up with on-demand meals and only provide buffet service, and limited at that
  • Are there enough housekeeping staff?
    • We understand that across the country, this is no longer a routinely provided daily service and it must now be requested by attendees. This means if you need fresh towels you have to ask for them. If you want your room cleaned, you will have to ask for it. And there could be additional charges for this service. Be sure to tip your housekeepers.
  • Are there enough maintenance staff to keep up with the hourly reports of mechanical failures?
    • Most facilities have either been out of service or taken over by state/federal entities (in our case) and room/building maintenance was either not permitted or not maintained for the last 15 months
    • In our case, the hotel only had 2 months to prepare for our arrival, and suffice it to say, they had a lot of issues bringing major mechanical systems online
  • Are there enough baggage carts and hotel porter staff?
    • Although our hotel didn’t require porter staff, many do (in some cases you cannot even touch your own bags). Make sure there is enough staff to ensure timely check-in and delivery of your personal items to your rooms. Same for check-out.
    • One issue we generated was some of our attendees like to keep baggage carts in their rooms – these are not our personal carts and need to be returned in a timely manner. 200 rooms with 6 baggage carts generate a lot of frustration. Just be thoughtful and courteous to others.
  • Automatic room lock-out?
    • We experienced a rash of early room lockouts on check-out day which generated a lot of stress from our attendees. Make sure if check-out is at 11:00 a.m. that they do not lock you out of your rooms at 10:30 a.m.
    • Also, ensure you have late check-out for your VIPs and convention planners who will be attending post-con meetings with hotel management, even build it into your contracts
  • Is the hotel ready for you?
    • Our convention was the first post-Covid event for our hotel. All of the items mentioned above lead us to believe that our hotel was not ready for a convention of our size and complexity. The worst part is that none of this was disclosed in planning meetings with the hotel months before our session, and not disclosed in our pre-con meeting the day before we started.
    • More importantly, please help your attendees appreciate the stress that hotel staff is under – it is not their fault they are understaffed and even untrained. Recognize the difference between management and staff responsibilities. Don’t take personal frustrations out on the staff – get a list of complaints/issues in writing and present those to management in a timely manner.
    • Finally, face it, in today’s world, people just like to complain about everything. Be courteous to the hotel staff, they are working as hard as they possibly can.
      • Encourage your attendees to address all issues with the front desk immediately so they can be worked – I can’t tell you how many complaints we received that were never reported to the hotel staff so they were never resolved
      • Request your attendees bring written complaints to your convention planners so they can be compiled and presented at the post-con meeting 

Although every hotel is not the same, in order to ensure the least number of complaints from our customers, plan ahead for every minute detail and demand full disclosure from your hotel management in planning your conventions. We understand they are struggling, but if we know what we are facing upfront, then we can share that information with our attendees to help ward off frustrations on both sides.