Hundreds of Democratic National Convention guests are already staying at Matthews hotels.
For the past several months, hotel owners and staff have been hard at work preparing for DNC visitors. Many hotels are completely booked for the week of the convention, and some — like the Courtyard Marriott in Matthews — have had rooms reserved for event guests for more than a year.
Out of the Marriott’s 121 rooms, 110 are designated for DNC guests, all of which are full.
“We’ve blocked off those rooms for the DNC for more than one year,” Brian Richardson, general manager of the hotel, said. “We have minimal availability (for those days) because of that.”
Wes Santos, general manager of the Fairfield Inn in Charlotte, located just outside of Matthews, said his hotel is “totally booked” for the week.
“People have been calling since as early as January looking for availability,” he said.
Check-in days vary by hotel, with the Marriott’s major check-in days being Aug. 30 and 31, and Sept. 2. Santos said the major check-in day for the Fairfield is Sept. 2, and Chris Armentrout, general manager of the Hampton Inn in Matthews, said his hotel’s biggest check-in days are Sept. 1 and 2.
As soon as officials announced Charlotte would be the location for the 2012 DNC, hotels began working with the city to provide rooms for delegates, media affiliates, security and other guests coming to town for the event.
“The city had us lock in a rate of $129 (per room) for the week, which is what we usually charge during that part of week,” Armentrout said. “You kind of have to agree to all their terms, sign a contract and lock everybody into those prices. You just want to create a favorable environment to have the DNC here.”
And Matthews hotels have been doing everything they can to make sure they’re at the top of their game when guests start arriving. Many are staffing up for the week, making sure they have enough manpower to meet the extra demand.
Armentrout said health inspectors visited the Hampton last week, making sure the staff were doing everything that needs to be done to make the hotel a safe, clean environment. Staff will be decorating the hotel in red, white and blue during the convention and providing special decorative chocolates, he said.
The extra work means a focus on reservations, too.
“We’re trying to know who’s coming to stay with us so there’s no confusion,” he said.“I still have 10 (rooms) available. We’d love to get them booked so we’ll be sold out because we have a high revenue expectation (for the week). It’s kind of been a mystery for a while, but our staff is excited.”
Santos said Fairfield staff have been attending meetings to get a general idea of what will be going on during the event. He and Richardson both said volunteers will be stationed at the hotels during the convention, ready to hand out event schedules and brochures and answering questions.
But it’s not just about the convention. Hotels also are hoping to generate business for local companies and show the Matthews area off to visitors who probably had never heard of the town prior to the convention.
Richardson said the Marriott is providing guests with cards that have the quick response, or QR, codes for both the town of Matthews and the Matthews Chamber of Commerce, so visitors can access information on their mobile devices at the click of a button.
“It’s a great way to pass on a large volume of information,” Richardson said Tuesday, adding that some guests have already begun checking in. “Since customers won’t be downtown in Charlotte all the time, when they’re out here, we’d like them to visit the community.”
Armentrout said some local businesses have been reaching out to the hotel in preparation for the convention as well.
“We’ve had some folks that have had that interest,” he said. “We’ve had service people asking if everything’s ready for the DNC. Food vendors (will be making) some types of patriotic food items, like red, white and blue cookies. A lot of businesses around here like to put (ads and flyers) out, and over last six months salespeople have been in preparation for the event.”
Hotel staff also are expecting the unexpected.
“No one really knows what to expect the week prior,” Santos said. “There’s supposed to be a bigger turnout of media (affiliates) coming the week before, and it’s really going to impact us the week of (the convention).”
The week is likely to be one of the busiest hotels have ever seen, but owners are grateful for the economic boost.
“We’re making sure we give all visitors everything they need to know about Matthews, so hopefully they will be, in their spare time, visiting the Town of Matthews,” Richardson said.