Hotels Holding Wifi Access Ransom? What Does Your Business Continuity Plan Think of That?

15 10 2014

Recent news that the FCC had fined Marriott $600,000 for blocking access to wifi at a conference center at one of their properties while charging companies up to $1,000 per device for that same access didn’t really strike me as that newsworthy.  In fact, I was surprised to find out that it was actually illegal because hotels and convention centers have been strictly controlling access to the internet since the mid ‘90’s.  I just never realized how illegal it was for them to do so.  Having managed seminars and the presence of various corporations at trade shows since before the consumer internet even existed, I well remember paying as much as $250/day for internet access, although in the earlier days obviously only hard-wire connections were available.

high-tailHowever, the size of the fine for a single-location violation and the fact the FCC also essentially put Marriott on probation (in addition to the fine, the chain also has to submit compliance updates with the FCC every three months for the next three years) means that the feds were taking the matter seriously.  And they should.  Hotels are in business to make money and they should make money.  But unlike charging per phone call made from your room in the days before cell phones (anybody else remember that?), disabling customers’ hotspot access and then charging them for the same access isn’t just making those customers pay twice for access, it’s doing so for a shockingly high rate.

Understandably, other chains high-tailed it to clarify that they either didn’t charge similar fees or that their internet access fees were ‘nominal.’  Mmmmkay.

More specifically to the needs of business continuity professionals, the practice of charging such high fees for internet access is yet another reason why it’s a bad idea for your BC plans to rely on your away teams to work in hotel conference rooms.  To begin with, conference rooms aren’t designed to act as long- or even medium-term work spaces.  Rental fees are usually fairly high, bathroom access can be an issue and room service or other onsite catering options are expensive.  Good luck finding a hotel that will let you bring food in from offsite; it just doesn’t happen.  Other potential concerns include security (is that wall between your war room and the driver’s ed class next door retractable?), privacy (we can’t keep the inquiring media out of a hotel’s public spaces) and the fact that, to hotels, their meeting rooms are like gold.  They have few of them, compared to guest rooms, and they’ll tell someone they’re sold out before they put the “wrong” (read: less profitable) group into that space.  Never mind the new airline-style fees that many of the chains are starting to tack on for what have always previously been considered standard or courtesy services.

Marriott responded to the fine by stating that they have “a strong interest in ensuring that when our guests use our Wi-Fi service, they will be protected from rogue wireless hot spots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft.”  The sentiment sounds respectable but to me it also sounds suspiciously like they were charging their guests for their own protection.  Cue the theme of The Godfather.

Am I saying that Marriott shouldn’t make a profit?  I am absolutely not saying that.  As with the provision of any type of infrastructure, there are labor and materials costs to recoup and they’re not running a charity.  And they do make a good point about wanting to ensure a quality internet experience for meeting attendees by controlling the access.  But they don’t own the air and the block-and-charge policy is financial double jeopardy for customers.  Just like you – I’m speaking specifically to you, the business continuity professional reading this – shouldn’t pay for a no-show or an early departure by one of your team members if your crisis deployment plans change, and they will, you shouldn’t have to pay double for internet access.

As an aside, blog co-editor and Continuity Housing Principal Michelle Lowther adds that, “We’d be remiss not to mention the fact that the hotel that got Marriott fined by the FCC, the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Conference Center, will always have a special place in my heart for their outstanding response and management of their staff and guests during the Nashville floods of 2010 which devastated their hotel.  These people did it right.”

My take-away?  Marriott got off easy.  It was just luck of the draw that they were the ones that the FCC singled out among the many, many other chains who committed the same violation over such a long period of time.  For now they and the other hotel chains should cross their fingers that they don’t find themselves on the receiving end of a class action lawsuit filed by the tens of thousands of companies and organizations who paid through the nose for so long in order to access the internet.

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or to find out about a free 30-minute consultation, let us know.





Continuity Housing Continues Expansion; Hotels Pro Rachel McKenna Joins Global Account Team

9 10 2014

Rachel-McKenna-head-shotAs Continuity Housing continues to grow, we’re delighted to announce the addition of Rachel McKenna to our Global Account Team.  Rachel has 19 years of hotel contract negotiation, sales and marketing experience with hotels and resorts in the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean and Canada.  She has worked for individual properties and was also a regional Director of National Sales for 33 different hotels and resorts in Florida, New York, Arizona, California and multiple international locations.  She was awarded Hyatt Hotels’ Sales Person of the Year Award in 2004.

And now she’s working on behalf of Continuity Housing’s clients.  Which is a very good thing for them.

Rachel will continue in her role as a global account executive for Conference Direct in alliance with Continuity Housing.  Her expertise is varied but resides mostly in site selection and hotel contract negotiation for destinations in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Mexico.  In just nine months with Conference Direct, Rachel has booked nearly $1.15MM in rooms revenue and has many more contracts in the pipeline.  In a nutshell she says, “I’ve negotiated thousands of hotel contracts in my 19 years in the industry which gives my clients the best possible resources and knowledge when I negotiate on their behalf.  I give them the edge!”

In her new role at Continuity Housing, Rachel will be onboarding new accounts, providing backup coordination on existing Continuity Housing client accounts and spearheading new development and expansion projects.

As for any special talents or unique perspectives Rachel brings to her clients at Continuity Housing, she says, “I lived in South Florida for 11 years, 9 of which were on the Gulf Coast (Naples) and the other two years on the East Coast in the Boca Raton area. I’ve been through 7 hurricanes and understand exactly the magnitude of how they affect businesses located in high risk areas.  I also have intimate knowledge of the need to have an airtight disaster relief program in place.  Having lived in South Florida for many of my years in hospitality, I’ve witnessed companies crippled for months after disaster occurs in their region from loss of power for weeks to tainted water lines making their businesses virtually inoperable.  Having a business continuity plan in place saves valuable time and money!  It’s difficult to have a bulletproof plan but with Continuity Housing being the first of its kind to provide housing-specific strategic planning for business continuity enhancement, I’m looking forward to being an active participant and always striving to exceed client expectations.

magnitude“More specifically,” she continues, “because of my background over the last 10 years in the luxury market, there’s an ingrained quality of always wanting to do more for the client.  ‘Going above and beyond’ is a cliché but that’s my standard mode at this point.  It’s second nature to me to always try to exceed the client’s expectations, to show a level of quality that the client isn’t even expecting.  I’m extremely detail-oriented with numbers and am used to achieving results quickly.  And I make the time to produce extra materials such as budget information that clients aren’t even expecting in order to make their jobs even easier.”

As for specific experiences, Rachel has planned events for celebrities, “A-listers,” famous musicians, VVIPs and European royalty.  “I’m used to dealing with people who have to come to expect that everyone around them sees them as being just as important as they see themselves.”  She shares that she managed a weekend-long social function for a well-known musician.  “Standard practice, a few days ahead of time they forwarded me the hospitality rider of requirements for the event . . . a 30-page rider.  And the event was in Mexico which added yet another special and interesting level of complexity.  But we took care of it.  All of it.”

Rachel graduated from Texas Tech University in 1995 with a BS in Hospitality Management.  While there she was an active member of her sorority as well as a TTU Raider Recruiter.  She and her husband have a 7-year old daughter and they live in McKinney just north of Dallas.  They enjoy entertaining and spending time with friends and family as well as traveling.

Continuity Housing is both proud and that much more valuable to our clients now that she’s part of our team.

***

Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or to find out about a free 30-minute consultation, let us know.





One Suicidal Employee, Thousands of Cancelled Flights. What’s Your Real Backup Travel Plan?

30 09 2014

Early last Friday morning it only took a matter of minutes for one disturbed person to cause the cancellation or delay of thousands of flights throughout one of the busiest aviation hub regions in the world.  Granted, this was a special situation because the contractor, one who had been “thoroughly vetted” and held a security clearance, had easy access and was able to quickly destroy two-thirds of the physical equipment that manages the communication systems for air travel throughout the entire region.  And yet again we’re reminded of the “unimaginable” scenario that causes such disruption.

By Monday afternoon, computing requirements for traffic management were being rerouted through other systems and cancellations were beginning to taper slightly but officials believe it will take as long as two weeks for operations – and flights – to return to normal.  If your company has facilities in the region, or if there was a major event scheduled in that region for this week or next or if your organization relies on material shipped by air from or even only through that part of the country . . . or . . . or . . . or . . . your organization has a problem.

After September 11th, then-mayor Giuliani said that the city didn’t have a contingency plan for managing the impact wrought by two hijacked airliners bringing down the Twin Towers but that they did have more than 20 other contingency plans on the shelf.  So they grabbed what was applicable from each of several different plans and by doing so were able to respond to the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible.  In many smaller ways, the continuing situation in Chicago mimics the historic travel disruptions caused on 9/11, mostly because no one ever imagined either scenario occurring.  And if they did, they most likely lacked the internal support to allocate resources for such a contingency.

mindsetThe morning of September the 11th I was very early on the road driving a large truck full of computer equipment and trade show materials to New Orleans to start setup for, ironically, a large aviation convention that was to take place the following week.  By mid-morning I knew that a lot about our lives had permanently changed and that the convention would certainly be cancelled or postponed.  I kept driving anyway because I knew that I’d need to manage our assembly crew throughout the process of reversing course midway through construction of our very large booth as well as attend to contract situations with several hotels where we had reservations for 50+ employees and plans that had been made for events at other venues that had been made nearly a year in advance.  Four days later I was on the way back to Houston in the same truck.  It didn’t occur to me until I was almost back to Houston that I could have stopped at the airport and picked up westward-bound travelers who were stranded due to the continued full ground stop.  Maybe not a great idea but I’ve always kicked myself for not considering that option until it was too late.  In my updated mindset, figuring out how to maximize that kind of asset would now be a priority in my response to such a disruption.  But helpful as that may be, it’s still small potatoes in the scheme of things.  As a business continuity professional, I’d need something scalable for my company.  Something with a little heft behind it.  Surely there are people and organizations that have such things?

According to a senior travel management professional I spoke with yesterday who manages the global air program for a major corporation, the answer to that is not so much.  He told me that even with considerable assets in the Chicago area, they don’t have a contingency plan for alerting their travelers about such a disruption because they “categorize the Chicago situation as traveler inconvenience (such as bad weather or labor strikes) [and therefore] don’t get involved with managing it [for our travelers].  Unless there is a safety or security risk to the traveler, we wouldn’t contact those that could be potentially impacted with this information because with the size of our program it could be a full-time job if we took on this responsibility.”  Regardless, he said, “We are looking at ways to use our corporate social media product to, at a minimum, post information on situations that could cause travel interruptions such as the Chicago situation that could potentially impact our travelers.”  In other words, for many corporate travelers, because of the substantial yet very rarely implemented logistics that would be involved, you’re more or less on your own the next time something like this happens.  And applying that to each of our little worlds, that can equal business interruptions that are difficult to quantify.

So what exactly would you have done in this situation or, if you’re being impacted this week, how are you responding?  Plan B.  Regardless of the cause of the disruption, plan B.  Redundancy in your backups, whether it involves IT server equipment, cross-training for different roles, temporarily replacing face-to-face meetings with an online equivalent or even, as we’ve seen enough times now, your business travel plans.  At Continuity Housing, we’re experts when it comes to contracting and working through logistical issues with hotels, but the air traffic control situation in Chicago gives us pause.  What can people do?  What would WE do?  If you have contingencies in place to support this scenario, by all means, please share them with the group.

***

And since we’re talking about travel, a quick side note.  A few weeks ago we posted about hotels starting to tack on airline-style fees for services and amenities that have traditionally been provided gratis.  Evidently Marriott is now upping that ante by encouraging guests to tip the housekeepers.  I like the opening line on that article about the chain wanting the housekeepers to make more money but not necessarily at Marriott’s own expense.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge fan of Marriott, especially their Residence Inn properties.  Regardless of your opinion of Marriott’s stance, I’ve always followed the advice of one of my corporate mentors from back in the day: the housekeeping staff knows how long you’ll be staying so, especially for a longer stay, tip decently and do so on the first day you arrive.

 ***

Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or to find out about a free 30-minute consultation, let us know.





Keeping The Lid on the America’s Busiest Foreign Seaport – Webinar Video Posted

25 09 2014
Click to view the video.

Click to view the video.

When I was a little kid, my favorite books were Richard Scarry’s incredible explorations of everyday life, not just because an inchworm driving a tiny tractor fit my 5-year-old worldview but because they opened my mind to the reality that human interaction was most productive when there was cooperation in complexity.  No, the phrase “cooperation in complexity” didn’t run through my tiny little brain but Scarry’s wonderful books did spark me to the fact that there was a whole bunch of stuff going on and that the only reason it all worked is that everybody plays a part.

I thought of those books with a smile yesterday during our fantastic webinar, “Maintaining Business Continuity At The Busiest Foreign Seaport in the U.S.”  The presenter was the eminently professional and talented Capt. Marcus Woodring, a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Managing Director of the Port of Houston’s HSSE branch which includes the Port of Houston fire department and HazMat Response Teams, the Port Police Department with 53 sworn officers and six Port Security Officers, the Safety Department with four specialists, all of the admin and budgeting functions, the Facility Security Officers and the Emergency Management dispatch division.  The Port of Houston is its own crazy world jam-packed with the potential for an unimaginable number of crises and he shared some of the more interesting situations from the last several years and the lessons they learned from each one.

It was an outstanding presentation and very positively received and it’s posted here if you’d like to watch it.  If you’re involved in any kind of business continuity management, it’s well worth watching and sharing with your team.  Our thanks to Capt. Woodring for his time and expertise and most of all for his devotion to keeping the Port running smoothly and efficiently.

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or to find out about a free 30-minute consultation, let us know.





Crazy Hotel Amenities . . . And The Crazy Perks We’ve All Come To Expect After We Check In

23 09 2014

A friend of mine sent me a link to an article about outrageous hotel amenities a while back and the concept has been bouncing around in my head ever since.  It’s made me wonder when it was that hotels quit being simply a comfortable place to show up, sign in, get a good night’s sleep and move along the next morning.  It’s also made me wonder how much we’ve come to expect, even demand, from a hotel during a business stay (and that the company we work for pay for) that each of us would have considered to be pretty outrageous even just 15 or 20 years ago.

Is this what we've become?

Is this what we’ve become?

I probably just lost half of the younger readers with my reference to “15 or 20 years” but let’s look at what we’ve come to normally expect from a hotel during a stay:

  • Wifi access to the internet, an inconceivable concept not so long ago. And it better be ‘free.’ (Of course they charge for it, they just don’t itemize it on your bill anymore.)
  • And free cable.  And free premium cable.  And movies on demand.
  • Complimentary breakfast.
  • Polite, diligent, extremely knowledgeable concierge service.
  • Dry cleaning and shoe shine service.
  • Free newspaper.
  • Complimentary transportation within the area and on demand.
  • In-room safe, and if it doesn’t hold a laptop, I scoff.
  • In-room coffee maker, although to be honest that one’s been around for quite a while.
  • Not just a pool but preferably a cabana of some type, towel service, music on the deck.
  • Ironing board.  An iron.
  • A refrigerator.
  • The cursed mini bar from which these days you can now purchase a single 12 oz. can of Coca-Cola for the princely sum of $5.00.
  • A 24-hour business center with wifi and fully functioning printers.
  • Complimentary happy hour, although similar to room service this one seems to have largely gone by the wayside at many places.
  • A gym. A really nice spotless gym with the latest equipment maintained in perfect working order . . . and a different wide-screen LCD (tuned to cable, of course) and remote control for almost every guest exercising!  This one still blows my mind.
  • And there better be a Starbucks® in the lobby.

Okay, so that’s the new minimum.  Granted, many of those things make our stay at a hotel much more survivable (if it’s a long trip) and even highly enjoyable.  But I remember staying in hotels while traveling with my parents back in the late ‘60’s and ‘70’s whereupon after registering for the night, one received exactly this: a metal key to a room that had a bed, a couple of chairs, maybe a small table, a mirror and hot and cold running water.  And yes, a television.  Arrive, watch a little TV, go to bed, move along the next morning.

But try some of these on for size that we heard about from Continuity Housing associate Rachel McKenna:

  • Bath butler to draw your bath and customize your experience.
  • An ESQ Movado watch (for the planner) for each group booked.
  • Sunglasses cleaned daily poolside or beachside (yes, the guy comes by with his cleaning kit and does it all right there for you).
  • Fresh fruit replenished daily in room.
  • Twice-daily maid service + additional turndown service (room attendants come to your room three times a day).
  • On-call butler to pack/unpack, refill ice bucket, draw your bath, etc.
  • iPads available from the concierge for personal or business use during stay.
  • Daily copy of your “hometown” newspaper.
  • DVD players and iPod and chargers as a standard in-room amenities.

heres-what-i-expectSo how much do you really need when you stay in a hotel?  I’m a bit of a minimalist overall but here’s what I expect: a modern, efficiently run, spotless, well maintained, secure and conveniently located property with comfortable rooms and a staff that actually makes me smile.  Although I have to admit, as a chocoholic the idea of a chocolate parlor makes me daydream a little.

What’s your hotel must-have and why?  And what’s the next entirely expected service or option that will become as standard as the bed in your room?

* * *

News otherwise, we’re hosting a free and fantastic educational and entertaining webinar tomorrow, Maintaining Business Continuity At The Busiest Foreign Seaport in the U.S.”  Learn more and register here now.  The presenter is outstanding, highly experienced and extremely knowledgeable about keeping all the plates spinning and attending will be a valuable use of your time.  If you can’t make it tomorrow, go ahead and register so that you automatically receive a follow-up email with a link to the recording.  (If you’re reading this after the webinar has occurred, you can watch it here now.)

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or to find out about a free 30-minute consultation, let us know.





A Really Cool Business Continuity Webinar: Maintaining Business Continuity at The Busiest Foreign Seaport in the U.S.

17 09 2014
Capt. Woodring

Capt. Woodring

Update, 24 September 2014: If you missed this webinar, you can watch it here now on YouTube.

A few weeks ago I wrote about a great boat tour of a segment of the Port of Houston that I went on along with the Southeast Texas Chapter of the Association of Contingency Planners.  The tour was educational but the presentation afterwards from Capt. Marcus Woodring, the Port’s HSSE director, was even better.  Several of you asked if it would be possible for us to secure Capt. Woodring for a webinar.  It was and we did.

The free, 45-minute webinar – as interesting as it will be educational – will be at 10:30 Central on September 24th.  You can register here right now.

During the webinar you’ll see how the Port of Houston prepares for and overcomes a wildly diverse range of challenges to its 24/7 continuity of operations including potential issues arising from fire, explosions, medical assistance and transport, aviation, ecological concerns, legalities, international personnel, collisions both on and offshore, spills, leaks, the possibility of terrorism, inclement or destructive weather . . . even contingencies for multiple but different types of events occurring simultaneously.

The Port of Houston is a 25-mile-long complex of public and private facilities located just a few hours by ship from the Gulf of Mexico. The port is ranked:

  • 1st in the United States in foreign waterborne tonnage
  • 1st in U.S. imports
  • 1st in U.S. export tonnage
  • 2nd in the U.S. in total tonnage

register-buttonIt’s the nation’s leading breakbulk port (yeah, I had to look it up, too), handling 65% of all major U.S. project cargo. The Port is comprised of public terminals which are owned, managed and leased by the Port of Houston Authority and 150-plus private companies along the 52-mile long Houston Ship Channel.  (Get an idea of how big it is.  Get another fascinating look here which is the same link as the one for the photo below.)  Each year, more than 200 million tons of cargo move through the Port of Houston carried by more than 8,000 vessels and 200,000 barge calls. As one of the world’s busiest ports, the Port of Houston is a large and vibrant component of the regional economy and ship channel-related businesses contribute more than 1.2 million jobs throughout Texas. (Source: portofhouston.com)

Screen grab from the video Night Run of The Houston Ship Channel by Houston Pilot Lou Vest.  Click to play; 2:27.

Screen grab from the video Night Run of The Houston Ship Channel by Houston Pilot Lou Vest. Click to play; 2:27.

Capt. Woodring, a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and Managing Director of the Port’s HSSE branch, including the Port of Houston firefighters and HazMat Response Teams; the Port Police Dept. with 53 sworn officers and six Port Security Officers; the Safety Dept. with four specialists; all admin and budgeting functions; three Facility Security Officers; and an Emergency Manager supervising 8 Dispatchers.

This is a great webinar, one where you’ll learn a lot and enjoy your time.  Register here.

***

Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or to find out about a free 30-minute consultation, let us know.





Hotels Mimicking Airlines With Extraneous New Fees – Business Continuity Professionals Take Note!

10 09 2014

Is the hotel industry taking it too far with new fees for everything from checking in early to a surcharge for that room safe whether you use it or not?  And if you’re traveling on the company dime, should you even care?  Even if you don’t, your company sure should and whomever they designate to keep up with these trends in order to address them in your contracts better realize that we’re talking about a LOT of money on the table.

10500It’s yet another benefit of creating your own standardized contract to present to hotels for any travel related to BC/DR, a concept familiar to anyone who’s seen one of my presentations, especially if you’re talking about a deployment of a group or groups of employees.  Otherwise, you can add these fees to the 60+ negotiable items that are already in a standard hotel’s group booking contract and have to be rehashed separately with each hotel you select.  And if you’re smart and spread your risk by contracting with not just one but multiple hotels, that translates to a whole lot of extra work for you.  Oh, and you’ll have to do that immediately pre-deployment when you have a gazillion other things competing for your time and attention.  Yikes!

For example, let’s say you have 75 rooms contracted at a hotel that charges $10/night for high speed internet access, an amount that’s actually on the low end.  Assuming you didn’t negotiate comp wifi for your employees at the outset (which you should have), that’s another $750/day for what you can do at Starbucks for free.  Too insignificant an amount?  Say you’re there for 2 weeks.  That makes it $10,500, which is a whole lot more than zero.  Gets your attention, doesn’t it?  Now think about all the other charges you might not foresee and you can see how quickly this compounds.  Better yet, assuming a charge of $149 per room night, see the tabulation below of new extra fees that could add another $100K to a hotel bill that already exceeds $150,000 . . . excluding taxes.

Photo: Traders Hotel

Photo: Traders Hotel

And yes, this is already happening.  Continuity Housing Global Account Executive Stacey Sabiston notes, “We’ve started to notice that some previous ‘optional’ or ‘at your discretion’ fees have started to become mandatory at some properties – maid gratuities and bellman gratuities to name a few.  Some properties are now adding a ‘VAT’ (value added tax) to the room rate which covers some of the formerly free hotel amenities such as the fitness center, daily newspaper, pool towels, etc.  One of the island properties we deal with charges a ‘daily service fee’ of 10% to cover porterage, housekeeping and front of house gratuities in addition to a $20 per room coastal protection levy – that’s the first time I’ve seen that one!  Many of the groups we’re booking for also have outdoor dinner events and functions and for those I’ve seen additional labor or setup fees being tacked on such as $15.00 per person or a flat setup fee for outdoor events.”

no-mini-barAs for invoices, they’re already a nightmare what with people leaving their assigned hotel to go somewhere else willy nilly, hotel front desk agents not knowing (and crediting you properly for) the concessions in your contract, charges that should have posted to an individual being posted to your organization’s master account instead, leaving you to collect on the back end from your employee – and it won’t be just the one employee . . .  The list goes on.  And who’s going to audit all this stuff to make sure you’re not getting the proverbial short end of the stick?

So what can you do?  For starters you can put the onus on the hotel.  In your contract boilerplate (which someone in your organization has created with your best interests in mind and which has been vetted by the powers that be), include a section called “Miscellaneous Charges” and leave it blank for the hotels to complete.  They must name each category of miscellaneous charges that will be in effect during the dates of your stay.  And if it’s not in the contract, then it’s not on your bill.  Unfortunately, parking lot fees usually aren’t negotiable.

Another thing you can do is set up a direct billing account with each hotel you’re working with.  Even if you plan to pay with a credit card, I strongly advise you to take this extra step.  If you have direct billing, it means that the hotel will invoice you and you will be able to audit that invoice before paying.  Without that, the hotel will charge your credit card the amount that they believe is correct and any billing discrepancies you find become more of a hassle and more time consuming.  Not necessary!  The mantra of superior business continuity planning is “Prepare and drill.  Do it again.  No surprises.”  Addressing this issue from the get-go is the only way to prevent these charges from creeping up on us during an event.

Have you been hit with charges like these?  Leave a comment and tell us about it!

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Continuity Housing helps companies enhance their business continuity plans by pre-arranging guaranteed housing and providing logistical support for mission-critical employees during disasters.  Subscribe to the Continuity Housing blog (in sidebar at right) and follow us on Twitter, on YouTube, on LinkedIn and on Facebook.  To subscribe to our mailing list and/or to find out about a free 30-minute consultation, let us know.








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