by Jonathan Vatner | March 01, 2007

illustrationOne should never underestimate the importance of a thorough site inspection. On paper, a property might look like the perfect venue, but without walking through it, it’s impossible to know if it will be right for the meeting. After all, the brochure photos don’t reveal peeling wallpaper, awkward meeting room layouts and lackadaisical service.

Inspecting a resort, rather than a city hotel, adds a whole new level of complexity. Attendees will depend on the property for not just their accommodations, but also for most of their meals and activities. Whereas a walkthrough of a hotel might be accomplished in little more than a half hour, seeing every facet of a resort can easily take half a day.

“If I’m sending people to the Peninsula in Chicago, they’re pretty much just sleeping there, maybe having breakfast, maybe meeting people for drinks,” says David Jewell, CMP, the regional vice president, Toronto region, for site-selection firm HelmsBriscoe. “People use resorts for things they don’t use hotels for, making it very difficult to rely on information you get about hotel quality and service levels.”

The following checklist is adapted from guidelines provided by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, based in White Plains, N.Y., and USMotivation, an incentive house headquartered in Atlanta.

Additional suggestions have been included from Jennifer Brown, CMP, partner at Meeting Sites Resource in Irvine, Calif.; Rita Connor, president of Elite Resorts and Spas, a Redondo Beach, Calif.-based company that sells resort meetings to groups; Jayne Greenburg, president of San Antonio-based Motivation Strategies LLC; HelmsBriscoe’s David Jewell; Pam Ouelett, spa director at Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Banff Springs in Alberta, Canada; and Michael Tidwell, CHA, director of sales and marketing for Ocean Place Resort & Spa in Long Branch, N.J.


Resort properties often are a good deal farther from the airport than city hotels are. Similarly, off-site venues are less likely to be within easy walking distance, and attendees are less likely to rent their own cars. Therefore, finding a reliable transportation company will be more crucial.

qHow close to the airport is the property? Ask whether the resort has an on-site destination management company, and ask if reduced rates or complimentary transfers are possible. Find out how many cars the DMC has. Also, if there are multiple DMCs to choose from, approach them all to discuss airport transfers and local trips.

qIs parking available, and what is the charge?

qWhat type of shopping, recreational facilities and restaurants are on site or nearby?

qFind out where motor coaches are permitted on property. Often, they can’t be brought under the porte cochere, and attendees must go on a hike to find them.

qIf you’re considering an offshore property, ask about the reliability of the electricity and whether the water from the tap is potable, and make a note of the water pressure.