Best book now as dates are filling up in the hospitality calendar. Hotels are ready to discuss the latest trends.
By Joy White
Guam is unique when it comes to banquets and events. From large corporate parties and galas to baby’s first birthdays, holding events at hotels is the norm and is oftentimes expected. With event season just around the corner, hotels on Guam already have a long list of parties, cocktails, lunch receptions and more.
When it comes to planning events, Kristel de Guzman, events manager for the Pacific Star Resort and Spa, says first things first: Book the venue. “I always tell my clients to avoid planning an event in December because that’s when you’ll see all the hotels raising their prices,” Kristel de Guzman said.
The second and fourth quarters are the peak seasons, she says, with May and June commonly booked for graduation parties and weddings and December popular for holiday parties.
For events that need to take place during the peak seasons, de Guzman says it may be necessary to book as far as six months in advance, with three months being the minimum. During the slow months, one month ahead of time is doable if the event is simple, she says. Mayeth de Guzman, banquet manager at the Sheraton Laguna Resort Guam, says for larger events, it is advisable to book about one year in advance. For smaller events, two months in advance is workable.
It is also important to consider when other major events will be occurring on island, Kristel de Guzman says, as Guam has few choices of some vendors, and they might be booked during particular times.
Guam’s hotels are equipped to host events ranging from intimate business lunch conferences to major balls and galas. Some factors to consider in planning an event are capacity of the function room and special features that may be needed, including stages and audio-visual capabilities.
One of the largest banquet rooms on island is the Zefiro in the main hotel building at the Leo Palace Resort, capable of accommodating 800 in a cocktail setting. It has two stages and can be partitioned into two separate rooms.
Among the resort’s other event rooms is its newest banquet room, the Kanta Banquet, which opened in April. The new banquet room can accommodate 200 guests for cocktails.
Its large number of banquet rooms make it a favorite for large weddings. Leo Palace is located in a remote part of the island, making it a peaceful atmosphere for events with a unique view of Guam, says Hiroyuki Miyata, president and chief executive officer. “A lot of people think of ocean views, but we have a good view of the other natural beauty of Guam. The size of the property is 1% of Guam’s [land mass],” Miyata said.
In addition, the extensive sports facilities at the resort are ideal for sports delegations and events, such as golf tournaments. The Guam National Olympic Committee used the facilities for several days to host tournaments and to house delegations from about 18 countries. Another advantage of the property is its ample parking, he says.
“The Sheraton is one of the few hotels on island that can provide plate service for a large number of people,” says Mayeth de Guzman. The hotel has the Ocean Sirena, the second largest ballroom on island, which can seat more than 550 guests. It can be divided in half for smaller functions and also has a foyer. “Sometimes we use the foyer for extra tables, or businesses put displays as an exhibit,” Mayeth de Guzman said.
The Sheraton hosts about three or four events per week and is very open to customization, Mayeth de Guzman says, including themed dinners, set menus, wedding menus and menus based on the event, and food tastings are set up before the event to ensure everything is up to par. The venue does not charge for the tablecloths, napkins or chair covers, where many other hotels do.
In 2011, the Westin Resort Guam renovated the Somnak, one of its two ballrooms, to address the increased demand for technical amenities. The ballroom has a built-in stage with lighting and audio equipment including two special projectors that rotate 360 degrees displaying images, company logos and even video clips onto the wall. The ballroom also has LED lighting in different colors to light up the walls, ceilings and floor. The hotel provides a technical specialist to assist with video and other equipment.
Hosting an estimated 10 events per week, the Westin does a lot of business in destination weddings, which are popular among both past Guam residents, who are returning for the wedding, and for international visitors, says sales specialist Michelle Campanon. She says the hotel is also popular for corporate and government events as well.
The Hilton Guam Resort & Spa has hosted a wide range of events including fundraising galas, wedding receptions, military retreats, corporate and government conferences, and social events.
The Hilton Guam Resort & Spa offers wireless Internet in all function rooms, digital event detail signboards, dimmable room lights, and equipment amenities in its boardroom, such as LCD monitors.
The hotel recently upgraded its food offerings to include themed food stations.
“Our team will be able to work with the party planner and create special menus to fit various themes,” says Oly Mutuc, banquet sales manager.
The Hilton’s banquet rooms include the Gallery, which offers a view of Tumon and the Lanai, which offers a patio setting. The Micronesian rooms offer an elevated stage ideal for productions and small function rooms ideal for meetings.
Companies in search of a venue have a few new options to choose from including the Lotte Hotel Guam, which opened on June 30, and the Dusit Thani, expected to open late this year or early next year.
The Lotte Hotel has already received plenty of bookings for its newly renovated banquet hall, the Crystal Ballroom, according to Lisa Diaz, director of food and beverage. The ballroom can seat up to 350 people and up to 700 people for cocktails in the foyer area. The Crystal Ballroom features a built-in stage and audio-visual systems, including built-in cameras — a first for Guam. In addition, Lotte Hotel offers a pre-function room with a built-in bar for guests to enjoy a cocktail before the event.
The Crystal Ballroom will not be the only banquet room for guests at the new hotel. The Lotte Hotel team is working to open three function rooms on the seventh floor, which will seat 30 each. The Lotte Hotel will also be opening another event venue called the Emerald Room, which has a capacity of 150.
While the hotel has its own resources for events, including table linens, it also assists its clients in contracting vendors for other services, such as entertainment and decorations. “The good thing about Lotte is guests do not have to vet these things because we have our own. And there are no hidden costs. We don’t charge for assisting them with contacts,” Diaz says.
Currently under construction in Tumon is the DusitThani. As the first hotel to be built on Guam in more than a decade, the venue will bring something new to Guam in terms of event venue options.
The facilities were designed with meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions — or MICE events — in mind. The new hotel will partner with the Outrigger and other hotels to offer additional room accommodations for conference attendees, says Melissa Lamorena-Fernandez, sales and marketing director.
The DusitThani’s main ballroom will be the largest on island at 29,000 square feet with a seating capacity of up to 1,000 people. It will feature a state-of-the-art audio system and lighting system. “One of its biggest appeals will be that it has no pillars or partitions to obstruct the view,” Lamorena-Fernandez says.
The DusitThani will also have two smaller ballrooms and seven other meeting spaces, three of which will have their own unique personalities. One room will be cellar-inspired, with a floor-to-ceiling wine rack. Another will be an action-type facility with a kitchen for casual cocktails. A classic boardroom is also planned.
The other event facilities at the Dusit Thani will include wedding suites with floor-to-ceiling glass windows and a city view and the entertainment suite, which will be an outdoor venue for up to 100 people with a plunge pool, barbecue pit and real grass.
The DusitThani team plans to hire top-notch banquet chefs and a team of experienced culinary professionals.
“The DusitThani is all about service and exceeding expectations as the newest luxury hotel. Our products will be a step above what everyone is used to,” Lamorena-Fernandez says.
For annual or recurring parties and events, it is common for clients to return to the same venues. Kristel de Guzman says the Pacific Star has many loyal customers, who have held their events at the hotel for more than seven years. The clients benefit from working with the same event coordinators, like the Pacific Star Resort and Spa staff, who Kristel de Guzman says have their clients’ needs and preferences memorized.
To ensure a smooth event, Pacific Star Hotel and Spa has a “red coat” program — a staff member wearing a red coat who works with the organizers of the event. The red coat is the go-to person reachable by radio by all organizers.
The Pacific Star hosts about 10 events each week in its 11 function rooms, depending on the season. The rooms have capacities ranging from eight to 400 people, the Chamorro ballroom being the largest. One of the hotel’s most popular rooms is The View, located on the lobby level with floor-to-ceiling windows and a private terrace. It accommodates 120 people.
The Pacific Star offers its lunch and dinner clients the choice of plated service or an option to “build your own buffet.” The banquet chefs are flexible with menu themes ranging from Chinese to Filipino to Chamorro cuisines. “Chamorro theme is actually very famous, not just for locals, but also island guests who want to try the local food here,” Kristel de Guzman says.
Over the course of the year, the hotel event coordinators have noted some popular trends in their customers’ requests. One is special lighting. Kristel de Guzman says it enhances the look and the feel of the room and diminishes the need for decorations. The Westin’s Campanon has noticed a preference for healthier fare. She says the Westin offers a superfoods menu. “This is often requested, especially for the government agencies. They usually ask for a healthy menu and we try to accommodate,” Campanon.
After the event is booked, Kristel de Guzman says it is important to have a dependable support team and to delegate duties and work. “Planning an event is a lot of work,” she says, and working with a team means more minds to remember details and make suggestions.
Mayeth de Guzman agrees that it is important to involve family members and friends for assistance and support. Distribution of work and duties saves a lot of stress, she says, especially as the event day draws near and there will possibly be several last-minute details to be tended to.
Another piece of advice Mayeth de Guzman gives is to have contingency plans in case something happens with a vendor at the last minute. But overall, her main recommendation is to plan and do research in advance.
According to Mutuc, it’s important for guests to consider their wants, needs, and expectactions and “communicate how the hotel can accomplish his or her expectations to make it a perfect and memorable event.”
Kristel de Guzman also stresses the importance of frequent communication with your event coordinator. Even with a venue secured and the setup planned, any last-minute decisions could cause problems, she says, such as deciding last minute to add a smoke machine or bring in outside food or beverages or surprise entertainment. Hotels have policies or regulations that may prohibit certain things, of which clients should discuss with the event coordinator or hotel staff upon an initial meeting before any time or money is wasted.
Finally, Kristel de Guzman says, “Enjoy what you planned.” She advises, “On the day of the event, stay calm. After all that preparation you should think you have everything under control, or it will take your focus away from the event.”