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"Linen-less" meetings and rapid turnarounds: How this Burnaby hotel adapted after COVID-19

Hotel and conference guests have different priorities in the wake of the pandemic.
Hotels have experienced new consumer behaviour in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and are changing - like going to "linen-less" meetings.

Hotels have seen big changes since the COVID-19 pandemic radically disrupted the hospitality industry.

Now staff are adapting to new consumer desires, including rapid turnarounds and an emphasis on diversity and sustainability.

Historically, according to the general manager of Burnaby’s Hilton Vancouver Metrotown Scott de Savoye, hotel staff planned for conferences about four to six months out, but now they work on conventions and meetings with a month’s notice or less.

“There’s no question that’s a trend, and I’m guessing it’s going to continue for a while,” said de Savoye.

“People, by and large, want to meet again in-person. We all missed that human connection, that personal touch and the ability to network and build new relationships and resurrect old relationships.

“But I think that people are still … maybe wary … whether it’s the uncertainty of the future, whether it is not wanting to commit too much too far out, we’re certainly feeling that.”

De Savoye said the final number of bookings in January was double what had been planned at the month’s start.

“That makes our job a little trickier to forecast and predict and to plan for – there’s a lot more last-minute stuff.”

Conference coordinators are also asking for a commitment to equity and diversity, said Elaine Samson, assistant director of sales at Hilton Vancouver Metrotown.

Samson said a women’s conference recently asked for a woman audio-visual technician.

“So, we have to make sure that our enhanced audio-visual company is able to provide a female technician,” she said.

Expectations for AV capabilities have also increased.

“The expectation there has been enhanced, incredibly. Moving from just sort of a vanilla meeting with a PowerPoint presentation, we’re seeing a lot more demand for live interface with associates that aren’t at the conference,” de Savoye said.

The hotel is also pivoting from an emphasis on recycling to avoiding single-use items altogether.

De Savoye said “linen-less meetings” are becoming a trend for hotels.

“If you have a banquet table set up, rather than just drape the white tablecloths and then you’ve got a big white skirt wrapped around it, which eventually has to be laundered, pressed or dry cleaned, a lot more attendees are asking for a linen-less experience because they know the amount of waste, water, time and energy to clean that linen is not acceptable.”

“We’re always looking at how we can better be more sustainable in our meetings,” de Savoye added.

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