Since many other Chambers of Commerce also act as the tourist promotion agency for their city, the Halifax Chamber of Commerce gets a lot of tourism-related requests – which we pass on to the experts at Nova Scotia Tourism. One question we get asked on a surprisingly regular basis is what the different hotels are like inside the rooms. My answer? I don’t really know. Since I live in Halifax, I don’t have much occasion to stay in hotels here. Ask me about their meeting rooms and I can give you a detailed description, but aside from Chamber events, I don’t get to see inside local hotels much.
So, when I had the opportunity to go on a tour of the Holiday Inn Express on the Kearney Lake Road, I was excited to see more than just meeting rooms. Allison Amirault, Duty Manager and sometime sales rep, gave me a behind the scenes tour.
The first place he showed me was the pool, and as a former lifeguard and given the outside temperature of around 30 degrees I would have been happy to stay there all day – but I did want to see the rest of the hotel. Before we moved on, Allison pointed out one of his favourite features of the pool area: a wheelchair-accessible elevator. He went on to explain that the hotel is fully accessible, with a number of rooms set aside for guests with disabilities.
Moving on to tour the rooms, the first one we looked at was the accessible room, complete with lower bed and light switches, extenders for opening and closing the curtains, lots of room in the bathroom including a roll-under sink, and even a roll-in shower. I asked if these rooms were held as long as possible before being assigned and Allison explained that yes, they would try their best to assign other rooms first – but with a 97% occupancy rate in the month of August, sometimes people who don’t necessarily need the service are placed in those rooms.
Allison showed me the other types of room – single queen with seating area, or double queen – singing out “Hello Guest Services” before entering each (supposedly vacant) room just in case. I tested out the bed and was amused to note that each bed had two sets of pillows – labeled “soft” and “firm” in embroidery on each pillow case. I was also momentarily distracted by the new photographs on the walls – two very calming scenes of a tree and the moon.
The only type of room I (sadly) couldn’t visit were the two – occupied – kid suites in the hotel, but apparently there is one with a Western theme and one with a safari theme!
We also toured the other public areas of the hotel – like the coin laundry rooms and the breakfast area, where hot breakfast is served each morning. I also visited one of the meeting rooms, set up boardroom style, and peeked through the peephole into the larger room, which holds up to 75 people but was (unfortunately for me and my tour but good for the hotel) occupied at the time.
Then I got to go behind the scenes – we toured the kitchen where breakfast is prepared daily; the laundry room where linens from 98 guest rooms are washed (though, like most hotels, guests have the option of helping to conserve by reusing linens for additional nights of their stay); the furnace room; the staff room; and then – I got to go behind the desk!
Allison gave me a mini-training session as if I were a new front desk employee. He showed me how to make a reservation, choose a room for the guest, find corporate rates (a man after my own heart, he has arranged everything neatly and alphabetically into a nice binder), edit bookings, check in guests, and even find a reservation made at another Holiday Inn Express (apparently there is sometimes confusion between this location, on the Kearney Lake Road, and the airport location – which, while near the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, is in fact located in Enfield).
I also saw how everything done in the computer system is backed up in a paper file – just in case, since as Allison pointed out, you never know when they computer system will crash. Whoever said computers were going to save paper was, I think, very wrong.
Throughout my training, Allison and his coworker answered the phone (both the giant blinking switchboard phone and the several other phones behind the desk) and greeted a number of guests, including a check-in, some day-use pool visitors, a delivery man, two people looking for the laundry room, and a man looking for directions downtown by bus. (At this point, Allison pulled out a thick binder he had put together full of directions from the hotel to… seemingly anywhere).
After my training I felt like I might be ready to tackle a shift behind the desk – but I’m sure the experts that work there would have quickly put me to shame.
Learn more about the Holiday Inn Express Halifax/Bedford at www.hiehalifax.com.
Jenn’s Journal is a new series of blog posts profiling ‘behind the scenes’ at Chamber member businesses. If you would like to give a Chamber staffer a behind-the-scenes tour of your business and have a blog post about it appear here, we’d love to visit! Please contact Jennifer Hopper, Member Services Manager at (902) 481-1227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.