Room With a View
by Larry Mundy
August 2006

Your Hotel Parking Lot


 
If you have a swank hotel in a dense urban area, don’t read this column.  You don’t have a parking lot.  Your guests all arrive in dented, smoking taxis, or are beamed directly into your lobby by Scotty from Star Trek.  The occasional guest foolish enough to arrive in his own vehicle will pay more than your nightly room rate to have his car warehoused in a private garage three blocks away, run by grade-school dropouts idly playing with switchblades.  You center-city people can go now, and design a ridiculous doorman’s uniform or something.

Okay, now that those city slickers are gone, the rest of us can talk about parking lots.  America is a mobile society, and Americans like to drive giant “sport utility vehicles” that weigh as much as a suburban house and get worse mileage than most cruise ships.  If you want guests to stay at your hotel, you have to provide a place for these rolling living rooms.

When designing your hotel, the developer had to decide whether to have cars park on a large, flat lot, causing drainage problems, or pile them up in a parking garage, causing structural problems.  The decision was made based on the cost of the land, and not based on any conceivable aspect of operational efficiency.  So if land was cheap, you have acres of asphalt and the last guest parks in the adjoining county.  If land was expensive, you have a garage with steep ramps which ice over during every cold snap.  Either way, giving the guests a place to park their cars requires two expensive things, maintenance and security, which do nothing for your ADR.

Flat lots require hole-filling from time to time, so that guests and their vehicles don’t disappear and resurface somewhere in China.  They have to have bold striping, so that guests observe some sort of order and don’t just abandon their vehicle parked diagonally across the entryway.  And to protect the integrity of the surface from weathering and cracking, they occasionally need to be “sealed,” which consists of paying a pavement contractor thousands of dollars to coat the surface with five bucks’ worth of Armor All, which looks good just long enough for the contractor to go out of business.

Parking garages require sealing and striping too, but they don’t develop “chuckholes.”  Or if they do, the guest’s vehicle doesn’t fall to China, but rather onto the next guest’s vehicle on the floor below, and so on.  Garages must be checked regularly by a structural engineer, and if there’s something seriously wrong with the parking structure, I recommend you simply erect a tall, barbed wire fence and convert your hotel to a medium-security prison that does not allow visitors.

Your security needs, of course, depend on your location.  There are few miscreants loitering in parking lots, in the middle of the Gobi desert.  Everywhere else, there may be bad guys waiting to prey on your guests, or at least the expensive sound systems in their cars.  The local police rarely care what’s happening on “private property,” as long as they aren’t regularly called to draw chalk outlines around fallen bodies.  You have two choices: a private security service, whose uniformed officer will sleep right through anything short of a full-scale gang war, or monitoring cameras, which can record the event and show investigators a fuzzy photo of the back of the bad guy’s head, the next morning.  Or you could combine these approaches, and hire the private security officer to sit in a comfortable chair in front of a bank of monitors, so he can sleep through the event in safety and comfort.

Your city or county may require that your parking garage be attractively painted and screened, which is sort of like putting earrings on a pig.  Or they may require that parking-lot “islands” have healthy trees and shrubs of some unknown variety which can withstand repeated impacts from giant SUV’s.  Good luck with that.

But the touchiest part of parking-lot ownership is the disclaimer sign, which tells the guest that your maintenance and security, no matter how intense, is still inadequate.  It could be strongly worded enough to withstand blows from a crusading plaintiff’s attorney, like “Danger!  Humans and vehicles in this parking lot are at severe risk of death, burglary, damage and the Black Plague!” and festooned with the universal skull-and-crossbones logo, but this is not good from a marketing standpoint.  Or, it could simply be cautionary, like “Please do not leave priceless gems and wads of cash in your vehicle’s seat or sticking out of your pockets.  Thank You.”  - but that approach does you little good if a guest is whacked over the head to steal his natty Air Jordans.  Now you understand why those guys that left us earlier, put up with the crowds and bustle of the big city.  They don’t have to worry about guest parking.



Larry Mundy works for a hotel company in Dallas.  His views are his own, and may differ considerably from those of a sane person."
 
Contact:

Larry Mundy
LJM2804@yahoo.com

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Also See: Room Service / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / August 2006
Redecorate Your Elevator Cabs, Every Fall / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / August 2006
The Basic Hotel Shower-Tub Combination, a Relic? / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / August 2006
Different Views of Customer Service - The Airline “Passenger Experience” vs the Hotel Guest Experience/ Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / August 2006
The Hotel Guest With Half a Brain / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
The Latest Thing - Fractional Ownership Of Things or FOOT Financing for Hotels / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
Hotel Floor Surfaces - Hard or Soft? / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
Hotel Bathroom Origami - That Tiny Detail of Carefully Triangulated Toilet Paper / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
A Chain, a System, a Franchise, a Collection, a Group, a Brand... / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
The Forensic Hotel Housekeeper / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
The Exercise Room in Your Hotel - Sweating the Details / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
Remembering the old-time Hotel Engineering Department / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
Curse of the Hotel Lobby-Dwellers / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
What Do You Do With an Old Hotel? / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
Hotel Smokers: A Dying Breed / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May  2006
The New Food & Beverage – Food “Just Like Home”  / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Guest Privacy – It’s Not Just a Door Tag Anymore / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
The Future of Hotel Reservations / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Soon Every Town in America Will Have an Unused Convention Center / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Hotel Pool Safety 101 / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Where Not To Build a Hotel / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
“Exterior Corridors” – Disappearing, Because They Never Existed / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy
My Top Ten Worst Hotel Inventions / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006
Bed Tech / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006
A Sense of Arrival / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006



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