Archive for February, 2013

Embracing Hospitality in the Post-Secondary Environment

Posted on: February 25th, 2013 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Author: Heidi Dale-Johnson, Conferences and Accommodation at UBC, Vancouver

It’s a given, that at some point, we have cursed being hospitality ambassadors at a university/college.  Whether you’re in Sales, Operations or Conference Services, it can, at times, be like trying to fit a circle into a square.  We look at our hospitality colleagues at hotels and convention centres, and see how seemingly effortless it is to provide exemplary customer service and professional products and services – without the bureaucratic hassles that our institutions can bring us.  Having spent time planning meetings offsite at brand hotels, I sometimes have to acknowledge that strolling around tastefully decorated lobbies and sipping on gourmet coffee seems incredibly appealing, over and above tripping over students at every turn and lining up at a Starbucks populated by hipsters.

Now, before I talk myself out of a job, let me highlight the flip side, the reason I do what I do – a philosophy, so to speak, that applies to every component of my job.  We have the unique ability to combine hospitality with education and research that simply can’t be found anywhere else.  This ability manifests itself in a number of ways.  By working with faculty members to host a conference on campus, we bring valuable revenue into the university.  Each institution channels these funds differently, but overall, education and students, in some capacity, are benefiting.  Just a quick glance at an academic conference program profiles the incredible and often ground-breaking research that delegates, often our own students, bring to our campuses, in addition to the learning that occurs onsite.  The buzz that delegates generate onsite follows them back to their home institutions, and in the social media age, this buzz has truly impressive traction.  The memories that delegates walk away with, more often than not, are experienced based, revolving around food, scenery and environment.  We can take great pride in knowing that this is our contribution.  In the non-academic markets, we’re showcasing our institutions to future generations of students.  Their language or sport experience can translate into a legacy of involvement.

So, the next time I am lured in by a sleek lobby, I simply have to remind myself that no matter how glossy the conference experience can be, it will never beat the opportunities to feature and propel education and research the way we can.  Few of us are actual academics, but we all appreciate and respect post-secondary education, and we get to play a truly unique part in the process.  Celebrate this!

Heidi Dale-Johnson
Conferences and Accommodation at UBC, Vancouver
Phone: 604 822-1061

Filling in the Accommodation Gaps

Posted on: February 18th, 2013 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Author: David Carroll, Residence & Conference Centre – Sheridan Brampton & Oakville

The calls are coming in, groups are being quoted and weekends are filling up for the summer, maybe some already sold out!

So….how to fill in those gaps to maximize revenue is your next challenge.  I call the “gaps” our Sunday night to Thursday business.  We all have some level of empty beds just waiting to be filled on those days, and usually it will have to be non-conference business.

We have a unique product, one that you cannot sell the next day.  Once the day is gone, so is the revenue for that bed, never to get it back.

I have 3 words to help you fill those empty beds and hit your targets…LONG TERM STAYS.  These are stays that usually run from a minimum of 1 week to a couple months.  They can be contract workers, families between homes, newcomers to Canada, concert and festival caterers/workers, employee training programs, and many more.

These groups have to be targeted; they will probably not find you otherwise.  This can be done on-line, local papers, trade shows, real estate agents, and many other avenues to put out the word that you have long term summer accommodation.  For a May 1 move in, I would start targeting this group in March.

The hardest part of this challenge is the “juggling” factor.  Most long terms will not want to leave on a sold out weekend, even when you pay for the hotel to move them too…as they may have lots of belongings with them, or it is an inconvenience, etc…

A couple ideas for the juggling challenge are to have a local hotel (similar to your product) with exceptional walk rates for you.  Most hotels are slower in the summer, so be tough and negotiate a good rate with them.  Another is to keep track of what and who is in each room, not every little piece of luggage, but… How many kids?  How much “stuff” in the suite, easy to move for a weekend, are they even there on the weekends….?  This can be done many ways, but the best is to just knock on the door and say hi.

Be creative, flexible and accommodating and you will be slamming your targets in no time at all!

If you have any questions at all, or any ideas, I would love to hear them, please feel free to contact myself.  Thank you.


David Carroll

Regional Sales Manager

Residence & Conference Centre – Sheridan Brampton & Oakville


Ph: (905) 815-4150 ext 7653

CUCCOA Connections

Posted on: February 11th, 2013 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Author: Erin Walton, MacEwan University

On the heels of an excellent Western Regional meeting of CUCCOA, I am reminded of the treasure chest of knowledge, connectivity and human resource our CUCCOA network is.

As we make our way across Alberta to attend the Regional meeting in Calgary, my colleague and I (both CUCCOA members) solve a major staffing problem by discussing our common interests, shared challenges and peak season problems. What’s interesting is that we solved it by moving one of our first-rate Event Planners from the Conference side of our business to our Summer & Group Accommodations side of our business from May through August.  What’s even more-interesting is that this particular employee (with such a strong, transferable skill set) came to us from a CUCCOA member institution in Ontario based on a reference from a CUCCOA colleague!

Talk about 6 degrees of separation.  Before too long, the conversation turns to “Don’t I know you?” and familiar faces are revealed as past colleagues from within the industry but from different CUCCOA member institutions, sometimes even from different regions.

What this translates to is CUCCOA can help make this a very small world.  Not only is there a wealth of knowledge and industry experience to share and draw upon during regional and national meetings but there are  amazing opportunities within the association to help each other solve problems, share staff and provide references across the country in order to help keep good people within the industry, which in turn helps our association grow stronger, shrink the marketplace and raise the awareness and profile of CUCCOA on a local and national level.

So, be sure to tap into the CUCCOA community.   Use the List Serve,  ensure you’re part of the CUCCOA members group on Linked In (we have over 90 members now!), reach out to your Regional Director, have dinner with a member in your area, call upon a member with expertise in a particular area and of course, attend any and all gatherings.  It is amazing what can be accomplished in a very short time!

Erin Walton | Manager

Conference & Event Services

MacEwan University


Phone: (780) 497-5038

Having Fun on the Job

Posted on: February 4th, 2013 by Michael Lepage No Comments

Author: Caitlyn Dixon, Dalhousie University, Agricultural Campus

As we enter into the shortest month of the year, I’m sitting here at Dalhousie University Agricultural Campus with my to-do list and organizing all of my thoughts so that when the last week of April rolls around, I am ready.  Ready to welcome new and returning clients, ready to get back to schedules, ready to show off our campus and ready to train my six wonderful summer students.

This is the time of year when we start recruiting for our summer positions (and begging a few past students to return).  I’m sure we all follow a similar process; reading through cover letters and resumes, selecting students to interview, and from there deciding who we want to be part of that summers team.

In past years, I have been lucky to have hired great teams of students that I know I can trust and depend on.  That being said, I have run into some issues, which I am sure are very similar on most campuses.  Students get tired, and not everyone pulls their weight.  The team is together so often that bickering and annoyances are bound to happen.  During busy and stressful times, people start to lose their drive and forget the client comes first.

I have come up with a few simple strategies and gestures to try and avoid the above mentioned issues.

  • The first is that I simply joke around with employees.  They still know that I am their supervisor and they respect that, but they also know that it’s ok to laugh and have fun while on the job.
  • Birthday Celebrations!  I make a big deal out of everyone’s birthdays.  Posters, cake, hats, the whole deal.
  • Staff dinners.  At the end of each season when we don’t have many clients around, we simply close down the desk for a few hours and go out for a staff dinner.  It is a great way to end the season on a high note and everyone enjoys getting together and reminiscing about all the funny, rewarding, stressful, and just plain strange experiences they may have had over the summer.
  • Snacks.  It is crazy how much you can lift university student’s moods with cake.  Or coffee, doughnuts, fruit trays, freezies, the list goes on and on…

These are just a few strategies for keeping students happy and working in harmony.  Students are often the first point of contact for clients arriving on campus and it is a best practice to have them greeted by a cheerful, welcoming face.

Caitlyn Dixon
Conference Coordinator, Dalhousie University, Agricultural Campus
Telephone:  902-893-4122

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