Smart planning makes care of holiday decorations effortless

Whether you operate a 1,000-plus-room hotel in the middle of a major city or a 100-room transient hotel, guests will expect some form of holiday decorations come December. The trick for any hotel is to find the right decorations to match expectations while also keeping these efforts from becoming a burden on staff.

“I believe when you walk into a hotel, you can tell almost immediately whether or not it’s well run,” said Mark Hemmer, COO at Vesta Hospitality. “It’s a feel that you get, it’s a collection of things that hit you all at once. Having nice decorations, appropriate decorations, in that time of year is just one more sign that this is a well-run place.”

Housekeeping Requirements

For Vesta Hospitality’s hotels, Hemmer said housekeeping generally handles the installation of lighter items and any day-to-day upkeep, while maintenance typically covers the heavier things like putting up and taking down reusable trees. At the beginning and end of the season, he said, housekeeping and maintenance staff do end up having to work extra hours to handle installation and deinstallation, but outside of that, any added time is “nominal.”

What housekeeping does cover throughout the season is pretty limited because Vesta looks at most decorations “as being nearly disposable,” he said. “By the time everyone gets done touching that stuff each year, you’re better off—sometimes you’re better off—just to get rid of it and start again the following year.”

At the 1,120-room Hyatt Regency Dallas, Richard Owens, the hotel’s senior event sales manager, said housekeeping’s involvement in holiday decorations is pretty limited. The events and food-and-beverage teams generally plan the year’s decorations. Outside companies may come in and install more complicated decorations and the banquets team decorates the trees and takes down any in-house decorations.

Owens said the main place where housekeeping becomes involved is in maintaining the lobbies. While attendants make their rounds, he said, they will check on small things, such as if any decorative plants—the hotel generally sticks to poinsettias—need more water. All in all, he said it doesn’t usually add much more than “a few minutes to their day.”

During last year's holiday season, the Dream Downtown in New York City worked with theory11 ​​​​​to create an interactive installation that would tell visitors' fortunes. Photo credit: Dream Hotels

At Dream Hotels, decorations go beyond the typical wreaths and trees and into the territory of whole installations, which the hotel will encase in glass. Randy Taormina, area director for Dream Hotels in New York City, said because decorations are usually handled by third parties, housekeeping is largely unimpacted. “Occasionally, housekeeping needs to do their daily duties in the public area and there happens to be an elephant or a fortuneteller there,” Taormina said. “It’s usually just giving them the one-pager explaining what the activation is, any wiring requirements any [audiovisual] requirements, anything that they need to be aware of. Our goal is to have something that’s very cool but doesn’t take a lot to maintain it.”

However, at the beginning of the season, the Monday after Thanksgiving, and at the end, a Monday in February, it is “all hands on deck,” to help ensure the increased number of deliveries on those days run smoothly. But because the hotel typically has the majority of its team already onsite on Mondays, he said it does not require any substantial schedule changes or extra hours.

Ensuring Easy Maintenance

As the operations guy, Taormina said his main goal is to ensure decorations are “cool, neat, easy [and] unique,” but also operationally sound. “We want to make it a one-stop shop that’s easy on the eyes and easy on the staff,” he said. In addition to protecting much of the installation in glass, he said the hotel will talk over limitations with the third party at the very beginning and go from there.

From the more typical decorations, Hemmer said Vesta avoids things that could be messy. “If it’s loaded with glitter and the glitter’s likely to come off, that’s something that we’re going to try to avoid,” he explained.

One simple thing Owens said the Hyatt Regency Dallas does is to collect empty boxes and decorate them as presents—“super easy, super inexpensive, really fun and festive and very low maintenance.” The hotel’s décor team, he said, typically will put those together in one afternoon as part of its larger efforts to decorate the property.

Social Media Benefits

“In the way we are living now, everything is about having an Instagrammable moment or something that looks good on social media that you can post and tag and share,” said Gwen Kimmelman, area director of digital marketing for Dream Hotels in New York.  “So, the holidays are a perfect opportunity to expand on that.”

According to data provided by Dream Hotels, the Dream Downtown in New York City saw its engagement rate increase 22 percent during its holiday installation last season. Its engagement rate per impression rose to 5.2 percent during this time compared to 2.9 percent during the previous months.

Owens said that at the Hyatt Regency Dallas, creating places for guests to take selfies has made “a big difference” in getting social media mentions. “The trees make a big difference, even if it’s just a large white tree.” As someone focused on the hotel’s events, he said the decorations are particularly important and “help [the hotel] do more business.”