Have you ever been on a hotel site inspection where a representative of the hotel is showing you the fancy new chandeliers in the ballroom, and you don’t need a ballroom? Or when you pull up to a hotel, does the valet greet you by name or ask if you’re checking in?
This summer, the San Diego CVB launched a new site inspection initiative designed to stop wasting your time.
“The program involves the training of the entire destination,” says Margie Sitton, senior vp of sales. “So when planners book a meeting through the bureau, they’ll be working with very qualified, educated salespeople in San Diego who understand their needs and can emotionally connect with what they want to do.”
It begins simply enough with ID placards on the car, so the bell staff knows the planner is there on official business and the salesperson isn’t a glorified chauffeur.
“We’ve also ramped up the kind of information we provide the hotels,” says Sitton. “Rather than saying these are the meeting specs, rates, dates and space the planner needs, we’re saying here’s what would really sell your hotel better to this meeting planner. For example, we know the planner loves history, so how do we showcase in this site inspection the history of San Diego?”
Sitton says she doesn’t want a planner’s key buying factor to be the fact that the meeting rooms are close together, or it’s a rate/value proposition. “What does that even mean?” she asks.
Instead, Sitton wants to convey to hotels the type of experience you want to create, so she’ll do a pre-call with the hotel to ensure everyone understands the mission. If this particular planner loves history, the CVB sales staff and hotel rep might suggest visiting historic Balboa Park, for example.
“But we’re going to visit at sunset, because that’s when the planner will be using the park, rather than going right after breakfast. So we’re showing the planner we’re creative, we heard what you want and we understand your needs.”
The CVB also started an evaluation process where planners rate inspections, which will then be shown to the hotel. Sitton explains, “We ask the planner, on a scale from 1 to 10: Were we efficient and respectful with your time? Did it have an appropriate sense of flow? Were you dragged to see the ballroom or spa, which you’ll never use? Were the encounters meaningful? Was the hotel rep aware of who you were? You know, have they just done it right?”
In September, the CVB hired a professional comedic troupe to perform a skit: 10 Stupid Things We Do to Mess Up Our Site Inspections, for 300 reps in the hotel and meetings industry.
“We over-exaggerated the things we shouldn’t be doing,” explains Sitton. “And afterwards, we had a panel of planners explain why those things bug them. The general manager from Manchester Grand Hyatt, one of our premier hotels who does a lot of sites, he said, ‘You know Margie, we think we don’t do these things but sometimes we do.’ So I’m excited, I think we’re making a difference.”