Best of the Best

By Lain Ehmann

Not all luxury hotels are created equal. Or so said the meeting planners who took part in the MeetingNews 2005 Planners’ Hotel Preference Poll. The top three luxury brands, in order, were: Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Four Seasons received an overall average rating of 8.83 in 13 categories ranging from sales staff professionalism to audio-visual services; Ritz-Carlton came in at 8.78, and Fairmont at 8.42.

What wowed meeting planners? A number of things – all of which meeting planners in any price bracket can use to evaluate potential venues:

Consistency of professionalism. Four Seasons prides itself on giving its guests memorable service – service it replicates at any of its 70 properties. The company says, “The deeply instilled Four Seasons culture is personified in its employees – people who share a single focus and are dedicated, highly skilled and inspired to offer great service.” According to an article by Marshall Krantz in MeetingNews, “More planners said Four Seasons consistently delivers exceptional service chain-wide in sales, catering and convention services than any other chain in the segment.” When planning your next meeting, visit with more than just the sales staff – stand in line and see how long it takes to get to the front desk. Sit down for a meal in the restaurant. Drop by the pool and spa and see how you’re treated. Remember – while a great sales team makes life good for you as the planner, your attendees care more about the F&B staff.

Establishing relationships. Four Seasons is known for keeping track of guest preferences. Check in with your dog Fluffy on your trip to San Diego (yes, the chain is pet-friendly!) and when you show up in Maui, don’t be surprised when the front desk clerk asks about your dog’s health – by name! This level of personalization doesn’t have to be limited to the luxury hotels; many smaller, boutique properties pride themselves on their customer relationships. Look for a property that cares about taking care of you in the long-term, not just during convention season.

Focus on the individual. Four Seasons is quite exacting in the hiring of its employees, and expects its guests to remember their interactions with the staff, not just the great view or the delicious food. “Beyond the comfort of the bed, the beauty of the flowers, or the serenity of the spa, it’s the people of Four Seasons who make each experience so exceptional,” the company says. For your next meeting, look for a hotel that doesn’t just say it cares about its customers; find one that shows its priorities by hiring the best of the best.

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