Pro-athlete stays require planning, flexibility
Pro-athlete stays require planning, flexibility
20 SEPTEMBER 2019 7:27 AM

Managing the stays of professional sports teams requires extra work, but with enough preparation and staff dedication, sources said hotels can seamlessly operate during high-demand times.

GLOBAL REPORT—Hoteliers in markets with high-demand from professional sports teams have hit a slam dunk when it comes to keeping these guests happy and on a tight schedule.

Ric Tanner, GM of Kimpton Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City, said sports teams are the primary demand driver for the hotel, and it frequently hosts NBA team Utah Jazz and Real Salt Lake, its major league soccer team.

“They’re very well organized and a little bit demanding, but that’s OK … it’s something we love and always would love to have more,” he said.

Tanner said the secret to success is accommodating all of the teams’ needs. Teams are very specific in the detail of information they provide to the hotel, whether it’s if the coach needs to be on a different floor than the players or players needing a discrete entrance, he said.

“You have to view those as absolute requirements. The one thing about sports teams is they are typically loyal to hotels that deliver great service to them … the stakes are so high, and a disruption of a hotel guests is never desirable,” he said.

He said his operations team and group service people are in tune to those standards and will review each arriving group a week prior to arrival. His team has quickly gotten used to this.

Abe Liao, GM of the Kimpton Palomar Washington, D.C., said his hotel hosts a variety of Major League Baseball teams, Arena Football, NBA D-League teams as well as ESPN news crews. This demand tends to ebb and flow with sports seasons, he said in an email interview.

How his hotel handles arrivals and departures of the teams is one of the most important aspects of the stay, he said. The last thing most teams want to do is wait in line to be checked in.

“We communicate with the team travel liaison about their exact arrival times so we can be sure to prepare for their arrival,” he said. “We typically prepare welcome packets including keys, important information and room assignments per guest on arrival.”

Depending on how each team prefers to handle it, his staff will either check the team in at the main registration desk or hand room keys directly over to the team’s travel manager to pass out.

Coordinating sports teams requires a bit of staffing and effort from the entire property, he said. Not only is his front-desk team involved, but so are the security staff and conference service mangers. Restaurant staff are also alerted of the teams’ arrivals in case of any dietary restrictions or late-night and early-morning dining needs, he said.

Erkin Aytekin, GM at Pullman Melbourne on the Park, in Melbourne, Australia, said his hotel accommodates teams with the Australian Football League, National Rugby League and National Soccer League as well as the Australian Open and Boxing Day Test cricket matches. The hotel is near the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Rod Laver Arena, he said via email.

“Each team has a certain way they would like things done or team space set up,” he said. “Some teams like us to prepare room keys with the team’s itinerary, others would prefer this printed and placed in the team room.”

He said he always ensures the same hotel staff member is working each team’s stay, so “the relationship and knowledge of the team’s needs are always met.”

His staff discusses and plans arrival and departure procedures, equipment storage, special catering and dietary needs, and caters to the needs of family and friends or sponsors who are traveling with the teams. Staff will have a couple of briefings prior to arrival.

It’s key to maintain at least one point of contact between the sports team and hotel staff, he said.

Privacy is of course paramount for celebrities and athletes, Tanner said, and his staff will never provide or confirm guest names if somebody calls asking.

Aytekin said his hotel will generally block off two guest floors to accommodate teams and will have specific rooms for their team space. They will also provide a separate check-in and entrance from the main ones, depending on what the team asks for, he said.

Liao said when teams arrive at his hotel, they are escorted through the conference area instead of the main lobby to make the arrival more private. The back entrance allows access to both guest and employee elevators, he said, which allows for the team to get to their rooms in the most efficient manner.

He said typically teams will take their equipment luggage with them but the hotel will set aside a secure meeting space for any “staging, team bag or equipment storage needed.”

Liao said room service is a big deal for sports teams since athletes might be too tired after a big game or tournament and want to enjoy their dinner or a snack in the privacy of their own guestroom. It’s also important to ensure each room has enough bottled waters stocked up, he said.

Sometimes his staff will even disable their guestroom phone lines from ringing if players need less noise distraction, he said.

Aytekin said many of the teams that stay at his hotel are usually happy to interact with regular guests and fans if they are approached for a photo or autograph.

Tanner said it is sometimes necessary to do some crowd control as teams get into playoffs season and his hotel will corner off an area outside of the entrance for autographs to ensure fans stay in that area.

Revenue management
Liao said when there is more lead time, his revenue-management team can provide a better rate to a group in advance of their arrival, but they understand that sometimes sports don’t work in that manner, as it can be unpredictable who will end up in a championship game or finals.

“We can do a lot on short notice as well depending on our availability,” he said.

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