Inside the Hotel

This time we’re talking to Arisia’s Hotel Division to get some insights into how they work.  Hotel reservations open to guests in mid-September, so this division is kicking it into high gear.

My name is Emily Coombs, and I am serving as Hotel Division Head for Arisia 2018.

How did you get into working for Arisia, and why work for Hotel specifically?

Almost 15 years ago, starting to work for Arisia was a surprise, even to me! A number of staff members knew me through my other outreach and volunteer efforts, and I got a call during the convention asking for some emergency help. I actually ended up staying for the whole weekend because of the amazing community I found.

I really love the intersection of different communities working together, and the hotel and convention folk are a great example of people finding unexpected common ground. Professional relationships are so important, and we are lucky to have such a collaborative partner as the Westin for this event. I have a personal soft spot for Hotel. It’s where I started doing pre-con work many years ago, and I love being able to take my professional skills and use them to help create a really fun, safe, and inclusive environment.

What do hotel people need to do to get ready for reservations to open? What’s the hardest part?

Getting reservations open is part business skills, part organizational, and part technical. We work closely with the hotel to put together the room blocks and to get the links to go live when they should. Arisia’s separation of quiet and active rooms is really important to many of our attendees, and it is something we introduced to the Westin based on how we use the space. Everything needs to be right because ultimately these digital reservations need to map to the physical resources that the hotel has.

Once reservations open do you have to do anything big or is it just handling problems as they come in?

(Laughs) Assuming we have set it up correctly and the technical side goes well, a lot of what we will do right after reservations open is to answer questions and start taking special requests. A lot of the challenge has to do with sheer volume all at once.

After the initial rush the hardest part is just how many moving pieces and special requests we make to the hotel. Every time we move someone off the waitlist, fill special requests, or make room changes, an Arisia staffer is working with a hotel employee to change those reservations manually. We organize the information and requests to ensure that people do not slip through the cracks. It’s really important for people to use the special request form rather than just putting a note in their reservation.

Beyond that, we will be assigning suites for those who have applied for them, reaching out to party hosts of all sorts, and supporting the internal requests to the hotel, so that we can have things show up the way we would like them as much as possible.

What was the biggest motivation for putting the deposit policy in place?

Allowing more attendees to have rooms in the main hotel! We had noticed for years that we would have a lot of cancellations every year right at the 24-hour cancellation point, but it was so late that we were not able to get people from the waiting list into those rooms.

How did the policy change things last year?

By having the deposit a month ahead of the convention, we still saw the cancellations at the last moment to avoid the fee, but because that happened earlier we were able to get a lot more people off the waitlist and into the main hotel, with enough time to change their alternate plans.

What do Hotel people do at the convention? Why do I see them sometimes wearing business clothing?

We have two major types of Arisia Hotel staff at convention: Hotel Liaisons and Innkeepers. Innkeepers sit at the table across from Westin Check-in and troubleshoot any concerns with guest rooms. Hotel Liaisons are the ones who are sometimes wearing business clothes, and they collect all the run-time non-guestroom hotel requests and represent Arisia to the hotel. This is really important because there is a lot going on at any given moment during the convention, and it allows us to work with the hotel with the whole convention in mind.

Thanks Emily and good luck! Some key thoughts:

  • Hotel reservation openings will be announced in our Progress Reports, by email, and through our social media. Sign up and follow @arisia for the latest.
  • Use the special request form for any specific needs; don’t depend on notes you write with your reservation.
  • If you have any problems with your room once you have checked in, see the Arisia Innkeepers at their desk.
  • If you have issues with the hotel while at con, a Hotel Liaison will help you. Find one in Ops.