It's important to note that the two failed site inspections were at different locations of the same chain. While I won't name names, I will spell out that this is one of India's largest five-star hotel chains.
On our way to each hotel visit, our local DMC called each property with a heads-up when we were 10-15 minutes away. Each property met us at the door with wonderful greetings, offers of cold beverages and exchanges of business cards. Each property, that is, but the chain mentioned above, which I'll call XYZ Hotels. XYZ Hotels prefers to have the prospective client wait in the lobby for 10 or 15 minutes. Then, after coming out to greet us without apology for the tardiness, the salesperson goes to obtain room keys, keeping us waiting another 10 minutes. Then the tour proceeds without the usual small-talk, without asking us what we wanted to see, making the experience entirely impersonal from the moment we got off on the wrong foot, to the moment he unceremoniously deposited us back into our car.
I know what you're thinking - perhaps that salesperson got side-tracked on an important call, or was finishing up another tour, or had a horrible coffee mishap, or...or...or. This happens, and it's completely understandable. What's interesting here is that my local source says this is typical behavior at ALL of their salespeople, and a culture of self-importance at this particular chain that sends a distinct message. I'll say...I sure got the message.
After the tour at one of these XYZ hotels, we headed for a nice, hosted lunch at the hotel's restaurant. The salesperson sat us down, and then excused himself without explanation, just saying he'd meet us afterward. Wow - apparently we didn't deserve his timeliness at our arrival, nor his time at lunch. The sister property behaved similarly, much to my surprise. One bad site inspection is easily forgotten, but to hear this happens regularly is not. Is it cultural? No. We were treated quite well at the Fairmonts, Marriotts, Hyatts, Le Meridiens, Oberois and other properties we visited.
The other chains weren't perfect, but they at least nailed the first impression and showed us that our visit was important to them, not an imposition. They were interested in the human connection. As I've said a million times, we planners want to feel like our piece of business is the most important you've ever had the pleasure of bidding on. Am I being a little hoity-toity here? Perhaps. But I speak for planners everywhere, whether their business is 25 rooms or 25,000. We all just want to be treated like we matter.
I've had all kinds of site inspections in 20+ years, and things happen. Schedules get confused, salespeople have things come up, planners are often late, but simple acknowledgements of these faux pas usually suffice and then we proceed on the tour.
Had this been an isolated incident at one property, I wouldn't be writing this. The fact that this is a trained behavior and a permeating company culture really shocked me.
By the way, whose huge, presumptuous, bag of brochures didn't make it into my luggage home? You guessed it.