Marriott smoking ban, redux

This morning we ran a version of this post in our e-newsletter, in which I talk about why I think banning smoking from guest rooms may not be the most hospitable of moves, and could be enough of an imposition to cause smoking attendees to book outside the block. You would not believe (or maybe you would) some of the responses I got. Like this one:

"Smokers just pollute the planet until they die, which should be soon. They shouldn't be allowed to go to a hotel. They should just stay home."

The more thoughtful responses addressed health concerns, but I'm sticking with: There must be some way to accommodate people who want to smoke in their rooms (not the public spaces, which hardly anyone outside of Las Vegas allows anymore anyway) without, as one person put it, having it be as ineffective as "a peeing section in a pool." One person wrote about how she was so disgusted by being put in a smoking room that she went to another hotel for the night. Well, I see that as poor inventory management on the part of the hotel—if they reserved a nonsmoking room, they should be able to get one. What I don't understand is why the reverse also shouldn't be true.

No matter where they're from in the meeting planning/hospitality world, so far, support for the ban is pretty strong. However, I did hear from several smokers who said that they would in fact book outside the block to avoid the inconvenience, so I maintain that this is something planners should at least take into consideration, whatever their personal habits and beliefs. As with anything else, the know-your-attendees rule still stands. And I believe that hotels should be hospitable toward all their guests, if at all possible. In this case, I maintain that it is possible. It just doesn't appear to be worth the trouble.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Update: When it comes to guest satisfaction, the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study finds that hotels that provide a smoke-free environment will get the edge. Which makes sense, and I'm sure was part of the reasoning behind Marriott's recent decision to go smoke-free. If you're playing to the odds, the 79 percent of nonsmokers in the U.S. trump the 21 percent who still light up.

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