The hotel arrival is the first impression that guests on a coach holiday get.
It can often colour their view of the stay and their hotel experience.
This case study relates to a coach holiday group arrival at a UK hotel in 2019.
Background to Coach Holiday Group Arrival
We had left our hotel at 8am that morning, made two comfort stops and had a 3 hour stop for lunch which included a guided walk and time to disover Oxford. Our hotel was in a city centre for 2 nights and we were due to arrive at 4pm.
I had emailed through all the rooming and dietary requests 2 days earlier and advised our arrival time. I confirmed this on the arrival day and as we came into the city I rang to advise we were approaching the hotel. There was no answer when I rang to advise we were approaching.
Coach Holiday Group Arrival Experience
As always I explain everything about the hotel on the coach before we arrive so that when guests arrive they can check in. We were also due to go on a local walk and have dinner that evening so I wanted to give guests time to relax before dinner.
When I arrived at the reception desk the front desk team were still allocating rooms and making up room keys. Guests were hot on my heels and soon the reception area (very small) was full.
Rooms were being allocated in no particular order which meant that several of the VIP guests had the longest wait for keys, while non VIP’s got checked in straight away.
(For this travel company VIP recognition and difference in service is a key feature of their service.)
The hotel reception advised that we had arrived 5 minutes early which is why things weren’t ready. A guest was beside me when they made that comment and that comment made it through to the guest questionnaire. They were correct we did arrive 5 minutes early.
We had to reallocate a room because in their rush to give out keys that had not noted the room requests and wanted to allocate rooms for travelling partners on different floors. This caused a further delay.
Only when all the rooms were allocated in the system could they give the porters a rooming list so the luggage sat waiting until the last key was given out to guests before this could start happening.
The porters didn’t have any pens or chalk and only had one rooming list. I decided to help them label cases to speed up the time it would take.
They then took cases as they were labelled rather than sorting them into floors. This led to guests appearing in reception thinking their cases were lost when they only received one out of their two for example.
Guests coming down in the lifts meant there were less lifts for the portering staff to use as the hotel only had two lifts available. This slowed down the service which meant many guests didn’t get the luggage before we went out on our walk.
I had anticipated this and advised guests that their luggage wouldn’t be in their rooms until we got back for their walk the previous day so they could pack anything they might need in their hand luggage.
However, it was still frustrating that 45 minutes after arriving there was still a great deal of luggage in reception.
I went and helped the hotel staff to deliver luggage to speed things up.
The impact of this somewhat chaotic coach holiday group arrival was as follows;
A guest quoted the comments made by the reception staff about us arriving 5 minutes early in her survey. This particular travel company is forensic in it’s scrutiny of surveys and feedback.
The guests found the check in experience frustrating after quite a busy day and I received quite a lot of comments about the experience.
The guests first impression of the hotel wasn’t good and this carried through to their experience at dinner, where the service was a bit mixed. If the reception had been smoother the dinner service might have been ‘forgiven’.
My feedback about the hotel wasn’t good and I raised this with the UK team who then raised it with the hotel to try and improve the experience for future groups.
Fixes to Prevent Problems
Get everything read 15 minutes ahead of when a group says they will be arriving. This can help avoid the frustration of guests waiting at reception and the pressure that the reception team experienced with everyone standing around watching them. This inevitably led to some mistakes such as incorrect names and room allocations.
Even better still do the allocations earlier and send the rooming list through to the Tour Manager in advance. Even seeing this an hour ahead of arrival can mean that any issues can be dealt with ahead of arrival. This is particularly helpful when travel companies allocate rooms in VIP order for example.
Ensure that porters have some sort of agreed system for dealing with luggage and that they have everything they need to deal with this quickly – ie something to label luggage with (pens, chalk or labels).
Ensure that porters have a rooming list each – often one porter gets a rooming list which means only one person can label luggage or check them them off when delivered to rooms.
Remember a poor coach holiday group arrival experience can leave a long impression.
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