3 Reasons to Consider a Smaller Hotel

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

Your group checks in at the same time as a youth group, a regional sales conference, or a meeting of international conferees.

Just when it's time for your conferees to head to a fun, off-site lunch, your transportation is tied up with those departing a local fundraising luncheon.

Your morning break has tea instead of flavored coffee, and your hotel customer services manager (or anyone with authority) is nowhere to be found.

It's easy for a small to mid-sized group to get lost in a large conference center or hotel, despite the efforts of larger properties to cater to the small meetings market. Inevitably, smaller groups get "caught up" in other gatherings, no matter how hard planners and conference planners try to create a sense of separation.

Fortunately, planners of small to mid-sized meetings (generally with fewer than 150 attendees) are discovering that many smaller hotels with under 200 guest rooms have the meeting space and full-service amenities necessary for a productive meetings experience. In the 1990s, smaller hotels simply were not built to compete with conference-heavy properties, particularly when it came to on-property amenities. For the most part, smaller hotel properties were viewed as the stepchild of the group market and used as overflow for larger hotels. But that has changed. Here are three major reasons a smaller property may be your group's best fit.

Service. Today, smaller hotels have evolved to offer the services and amenities today's business travelers are looking for: wireless and high-speed Internet access, fully equipped fitness facilities, heated swimming pools, in-room flat-screen televisions, free business center use, and even upgraded bedding and bath products.

Easy in, easy out. After a long flight and drive from the airport, easy accessibility to the hotel and a short walk to the front desk are a welcome relief. By the same token, smaller hotels also eliminate the need for conferees and transient guests to cope with long lines in multilevel parking garages, high parking fees, and long treks to their cars. For the business traveler, every minute counts.

The "big fish, small pond" factor. Small groups that would be lost in a larger hotel are the main event at a smaller facility. If your group takes up the majority or even half of the guest rooms at a small property, you can rest assured it will be top of mind with every employee at that hotel. Your group will have top billing, from check-in to meals in the restaurant. There is rarely competition for service with other groups.

George Attie is the general manager of The Hilton Garden Inn Houston/Galleria, a 182-room property steps from the world-famous Galleria shopping center. He can be reached at (713) 629-9001.