Making hotels more hospitable

You can influence how you're served when away from home

frican Americans spend $4 billion on travel each year according to the NAACP, but do we get that value in the quality of service we receive? If not, how can we get better treatment?

“African American travelers need to be aware of who they are doing business with,” says Valerie C. Ferguson, the first African American chairperson of the American Hotel & Motel Association, an industry trade organization representing more than 12,000 member hotels, motels and resorts in the U.S. “If a hotel has made a point of employing blacks in upper management, uses black suppliers and has black franchises, that means you’re doing business with a company that cares about your business, and it will trickle down into the services you receive,” she explains.

Ferguson, who’s also regional vice president and managing director of the new Loews Philadelphia Hotel, says that black consumers should have the highest expectations. “When you walk in and see what kind of ambiance that hotel offers, that’s what you should expect.” She says this holds true whether you’re talking about a roadside inn or a five-star property.

Ferguson offers more advice on getting good service:

  • Listen closely to the accommodations as they’re described and the rate you’re quoted so that you can ensure the hotel keeps its word. If you want a specific kind of bed, make sure you request it and receive a guarantee that it will be available when you arrive.
  • Write down your confirmation number and the name of the agent who quoted you the rate. “That’s at least a 90% guarantee of the rate. And, get the information in writing-even faxed, if you can.”
  • Know your rights. If your guaranteed room is unavailable and you were planning to stay there for more than one night, the hotel is required to foot the bill to put you in a comparable hotel, provide transportation there and back, and pay for a phone call home.
  • Notify the hotel in advance if you’ll be delayed or if you have to cancel. the hotel can charge you a no-show fee for a guaranteed room if you don’t call 24 hours prior to canceling.
  • Look for acknowledgement of your presence, from the doorman to the front desk. These hospitality pros are responsible for seeing that your needs are met.
  • Report poor service to the supervising manager. Explain in a clear, direct and concise manner-without hostility-precisely what happened. You should expect a follow-up by the person in charge.
  • Contact the hotel’s corporate office if you’ve had a really negative-or positive-experience, and ask for the vice president of operations or customer service. Follow up your call with a letter explaining in detail the events and those who served you; indicate your displeasure or satisfaction. A good comment card is as affective as a negative one.
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