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HOW IS BOOKING A RESORT HOTEL DIFFERENT FROM A CITY HOTEL?


Posted on October 08, 2007

By Steve Collins

In my years of working in sales offices at resort hotels here in the central Rockies, I was amazed at the number of meeting planners who seemed totally unfamiliar with how resorts work.  Now, after being on the “other side” of the equation for a few years, I understand where the confusion can arise.  Although the ground rules are fairly similar, there are a few differences that need to be taken into account when booking a resort property as opposed to a hotel that is more business-oriented.

This week we will discuss a few of the ins-and-outs of booking meetings at resorts.  Today’s topic will be highlighting some of the differences to expect when booking a resort.  On Wednesday, I will address some of the advantages vs. disadvantages of meetings at resorts, and on Friday I will go through some of the “idiosyncrasies” you might encounter when booking at a resort (including a discussion of the hated resort fee).

A couple of caveats:  first of all, I will be addressing these topics from a US perspective.  While many of the issues discussed are valid worldwide, there may be some issues that may not be as relevant at some international resorts.  Also, I will be generalizing quite a bit because there is no real way to speak for every single resort property throughout the country—obviously there WILL be variations, but most of these issues will still be valid at least to some degree.

Okay—so now on to today’s discussion:

WHAT DIFFERENCES WILL YOU FIND WHEN BOOKING A RESORT?

A hotel is a hotel, right?  So what’s the difference if it is a resort hotel instead of a business hotel?  Actually, here are some of the more significant ones:

• Access—since, by definition, many resorts are considered “getaway” destinations, they tend to be located further from major hub cities with good air service.  This means that your attendees may need to be prepared to change planes, fly on smaller aircraft, and/or sit on a shuttle bus of some sort for a fairly significant period of time. 
• Deposit/Cancellation Policies—hotels in major metropolitan areas generate a very significant amount of walk-in business, which means they can typically have very lax deposit and cancellation requirements—thus, the 4pm (or 6pm) cancellation policy that is very common in cities.  Since there are plenty of other lodging options available nearby in the event of a walk situation, they can overbook the hotel by as much as 25% or more, and count on the attrition rate to even out their room count each evening.  This also allows them to book groups with little to no advance deposit.  Not so with resort properties.  In many resort areas—particularly destination resorts—a room that is unsold 30 days prior to arrival will most likely not be sold.  FIT guests don’t just “show up” without a reservation at a resort that may be 2-3 hours away from the nearest major metro area, so there is no walk-in business to speak of.  This means that most resort hotels are going to be much more stringent with both their deposit policies and their attrition/cancellation policies.  If a group significantly reduces its room block or cancels too close to the arrival date, there is simply no way that the resort will be able to replace that business in most cases.
• Seasonality—most resorts have very distinct seasons where they will be absolutely full or absolutely empty.  If you are trying to book a resort during their peak season, expect to pay top dollar and have little flexibility.  If you are booking during the off-season, they will typically bend over backwards to attract your business, but be aware that there may not be many activities available in the area over those dates.
• Pattern—most business hotels have a Monday through Thursday pattern for the majority of their business, so weekends are typically empty for them.  In a resort setting, typically Friday and Saturday are the busiest days of the week, so be aware that you will pay top dollar for those two nights—and some resorts will not even take your group if you will break up a weekend by booking only a Friday or a Saturday night.  On the other hand, you will generally find them to be much more flexible with you for a booking during the Monday-Thursday time frame.
• Facilities—always remember that most resort areas are geared toward leisure travelers, and as such, may not have some of the amenities available that have become expected among business travelers.  Some things are obvious—for example, not many secluded resort areas are going to have a convention center available that can seat your 10,000 person general session plus 25 breakouts and meals for the entire group.  However, some things are much more subtle—especially for planners from the Eastern Seaboard who are not used to more rural settings.  Be aware that things like high speed internet and consistent cell phone coverage are still NOT a given in many areas—particularly in the more rural parts of the western US.  Just make sure that your attendees can live without these things for a few days if you decide to book a resort in a more remote area.

This is by no means a complete list, but it gives you an idea of some of the items to consider when looking at resort destinations.  Holding a meeting at a resort can be fun and rewarding for the attendees as well as cost-effective and impactful for the sponsoring organization, but you, as the meeting planner, do need to be aware of these differences when you are conducting your searches.

On Wednesday we will go into a bit more detail as to the advantages vs. disadvantages of booking meetings in resort destinations.  Stay tuned……

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Comments

all inclusive resorts

I wasn't hoping to find better information on this.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts

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