Booking the right hotel can make a good trip great.
Affinity group travel planners make lots of important choices, from selecting destinations to choosing tour companies and picking the right time to travel. But these first-order decisions aren’t the only ones that can impact a traveler’s experience. Group tour customers spend more time in hotels than any other place, and hotel accommodations represent a large part of any group tour.
With hotels accounting for so much time and money, it’s important to pick properties that will enhance the travel experience. Here’s an overview of the five main categories of hotels, along with tips about when to use each one.
There are more limited-service hotels in America than any other type. Known for convenience and affordability, these properties offer all the basics you need for an overnight stay — clean rooms, comfortable beds, bathroom amenities — with few extras, save a continental breakfast. Limited-service hotels can be useful but are rarely memorable. For high-end groups, they are best employed in transit, near airports or along highways. They typically offer attractive pricing, but overusing these types of hotels will make your trips seem cheap and may undercut the image of exclusivity your travel program is built on.
Operating in the space between limited-service hotels and their full-service cousins, expanded service hotels have boomed in popularity over the past decade. While they generally don’t have amenities such as room service, valet parking or concierges, they usually offer expanded food-and-beverage options, including an onsite bar and higher-quality breakfast that isn’t necessarily included in the room rate. They’re also likely to have better internet service and upgraded fitness facilities. Although these properties are usually marketed to business travelers, they can be an ideal choice for group planners who want to make a good impression on clients while still keeping the lodging budget under control.
The classic full-service hotel offers everything that makes travel feel glamorous — attractive public spaces, onsite bars and restaurants, attentive staff and luxurious guestrooms. Often found in city centers or nearby popular attractions, these properties often become memorable parts of a group tour experience. You’ll usually pay more for these hotels (and get fewer included services), but the perks and proximity to popular places make the added expense worthwhile. Use these hotels when you’ve arrived at the destinations that are centerpieces of your itineraries. You should also opt for full-service hotels when traveling to foreign countries.
When you think of resorts, you probably picture luxurious accommodations surrounded by beautiful natural settings. Resorts are often destinations unto themselves, with numerous options for dining, entertainment and activities such as golf or spa outings. Resorts are at the most expensive end of the price range, but they’ll also make the best impression on your travelers. If you’re visiting a famously scenic destination, including a couple nights in an upscale resort will make your travelers feel like VIPs. When you do, allow more free time than normal so your travelers can make the most of all the options on site.
Many state and national parks around the country have their own lodging facilities inside the parks’ borders. The quality levels of these accommodations can vary widely: Some national park lodges are rather expensive, while many state park lodges are spartan in nature. And though they often lack in amenities, these lodges often have their own kind of charm. They also offer serene surroundings and immediate access to the parks. Staying a night in a park lodge can add character and variety to trips, especially if you give your travelers time to explore the outdoors.