Recently, I was invited to do a "Business from the Balcony" day at The Catamaran Resort San Diego. Business from the balcony is simply working from a hotel guest room for the day. I had never done one before, was curious, and desperately needed a change of scenery from my stuffy home office. I like this concept for these reasons:
Distraction Free Work: Although I always work from home, working from a hotel room is a pleasant departure from the dog, husband, Amazon delivery and pool man interruptions that come with being in a home office.
Upfront View Of Hotel Covid Practices: Every hotel has a sanitation and safety plan. Every hotel has capacity charts, social distancing guidelines & virtual tour videos. However, nothing can replace physically seeing and being in a hotel when guests, like me, are moving around the hotel and navigating these practices. It was good to see how hotels were checking guests in, the physical barriers they used to create separation and the signage that guides guests along the way.
Lunch with my hotel partner: These relationships are more important now than ever before. Clients, hotel sales people and third parties equally have been through a form of war together, fighting Covid19 issues since late February. Every time I engage with one of my hotel sales partners and hear their plight of how they've personally and professionally endured Covid19, it makes me smarter. Visiting with trusted vendors during this time helps me to be more knowledgeable for my clients, be a better partner to the vendors, and it helps me be to be a more empathetic business person. If there is one thing I've learned over this Covid thing, it's the importance of empathetic leadership, so, I'll take any more education I can get on that topic. I arrived early to the hotel so I could take a bike ride on the boardwalk just outside the hotel's door steps. Door to door it was a flat, easy and sunny 12 miles. It was a great way to start the day.
When I was done with the ride it was around 10 am. I didn't stay overnight at the property but got a good sense of the tactics that were implemented to keep guests safe. Below is what I learned during the Business From The Balcony visit to The Catamaran Hotel:
Signage: As I approached the front door of the hotel, I noticed the clearly marked signage. I knew exactly where to go and what was expected of me as a guest. Having good signage in all parts of the hotel is so important right now because it instills confidence in the experience and made me feel safe.
Confident Staff: The front desk stood behind a plexi glass wearing gloves and masks. Although they were all suited up, they smiled and made the welcome process easy and pleasant. I also witnessed a staff member walk through the lobby lugging a cash box while wearing her mask and a guest trotting through the Polynesian inspired lobby all in the first 3 minutes of arrival. (check it out here on my YouTube channel)
Clean Room & Easy To Use Internet: When I got to the room there was signage in the room that had indicated it was recently cleaned. The room was spotless. I had a view of the bay which made opening the slider and letting the sea breeze in, very easy. On the desk in the room it was clearly marked how to get onto the internet and the speed was lightning fast--probably faster than mine at home. I have seen some hotels actually place a seal on the outside of the guest room before entering as well. I love that. It makes me feel like there is a second layer of sanitation checks and balances.
I worked for a couple hours and then it was time for lunch.
Social Distancing Outdoor Space: On the walk to lunch I noticed two parts of the hotel that were attractive for guests seeking additional social distancing. The beach chairs and umbrellas were lined up on their large outdoor grass lanai. The spacing was not like a normal hotel bumped up against each other packed in like sardines. They were spaced at least six feet apart and they spread it out on the beach and the grass making great use of their outdoor space.
I also appreciated that the outdoor walkway to and from the guest rooms. This is important to consider when looking at a hotel for a meeting. It's not a dealbreaker but certainly a nice to have. Being able to walk outside to my guest room on an open air walkway reduced my risk of bumping into another guest in a small, narrow, indoor guestroom corridor which ultimately reduces my risk of contracting Covid from a stranger. I didn't realize this until I did the walk myself but it is certainly a great feature of this hotel.
Lunch Experience: I met my sales manager hotel partner Cynthia Peterson at Oceana Coastal Kitchen for lunch. We sat outside, on their open air patio overlooking the bay. There was a nice breeze and it was very relaxing. The tables were all set six feet apart with limited chairs at each to ensure social distancing. The servers wore masks and gloves and although it can be difficult to hear behind those masks, she annunciated her words so clearly I thought she was a speech teacher. The food was excellent and the company was even better. I can tell this restaurant has a solid training program in place because all the staff seemed to know exactly where they were going and how to seat people in this new set up. They also were very considerate about accommodating me if I wanted to sit farther away from people. I didn't have a preference but it was nice that she asked.
On the way back to my guest room office for the day I noticed the logistical way the hotel had their outdoor bar set up. In the past, they had an indoor bar where one could grab a drink or people could sit outside and order. They created a faux "to go" bar stand with a banquet table against the old entrance to the bar. This flow was great for both the server and the guest. The guest could go up to the "bar" and get a "to go" canned cocktail or beverage and the server still got to have full access to their bar by being inside. The ToGo drinks were clearly marked in great signage just outside the 'walk up' bar.
Sadly, I did not partake in a to go drink that day, but, I made a mental note of it for my next visit. I went back to the guest room to finish out work for the day. I was instructed to return my key by 4:00 PM so the hotel could have the room back in enough time to clean and sanitize it for the next guest. As I left, the same front desk person that greeted me, accepted my key, asked how my stay was and bid me farewell with her happy eyes and smile hidden behind her Catamaran mask.
It was a good day and I highly recommend going to a local hotel, just for the day to do a "Business From The Balcony" work day. It was by no means a vacation day. However, it was a nice reprieve of the "norm" of working from home. Simply removing myself from my normal working environment de-cluttered my brain, and gave me refreshing new ways to look at the same day to day work problems.
If you want to learn more about hotels that "get it" and are creating safe spaces for people to meet and convene, email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to read more about hotel site inspections and travel, visit my blog at www.mandigraziano.com/hpn-global . If you want to see videos of hotels or venue experiences I've visited over the years, subscribe to Mandi's Excellent Site Adventures on YouTube.