Be Our Guest - Pharmaceutical Executive


Be Our Guest
From training employees to forgoing lobster tail, hotels are putting the PhRMA Code on their menus.

Pharmaceutical Executive

Hospitality Training

Companies have dedicated substantial man-hours to training their employees on the implications of the PhRMA Code. Now, hotels are following suit.

KSL, for example, joined forces with a staff-training partner specializing in the pharma industry, Master Connection Associates, to create the KSL Pharmaceutical Expertise Program (PEP). Affectionately named, PEP was launched at the Arizona Biltmore this past March and has since rolled out in the majority of KSL's other properties.

David Sneider is director of national accounts for the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center
With the help of an 80-page spiral-bound book (more than half of it comprised of PhRMA's actual Code), KSL's hotel managers and department heads go through a half-day training session devoted entirely to the specific hospitality needs of pharma and medical meeting guests. "From top to bottom, we make them aware of the PhRMA Code and what their responsibility is," Aylmer says.

About 1,000 KSL Resort employees had completed PEP training as of August. (Newly minted PEP squad personnel receive a special pill-shaped pin for their efforts.)

Michael Aylmer is KSL's senior director of pharmaceutical sales
Several hotel chains now see training as the key to helping employees understand and deal with the complex issues surrounding appropriate gifts. For the most part, the PhRMA Code has done away with the days where doctors and other A-list pharma conference guests could simply saunter up to the spa and get a $200-an-hour seaweed wrap on the house. The marketing code very explicitly states that gifts and services solely for the personal benefit of a healthcare provider should not be offered by pharmaceutical companies—much to the chagrin of healthcare providers who remember the days of old. In many cases, training programs help employees inform guests of the line between the house account and guest account bill.

"A doctor may be forceful when requesting a spa service be put on the house account," says Miki Mitrovich, trainer and consultant with Master Connection Associates. "Or they may go up to the concierge and request a limo to the airport on the house. The respective department managers must know immediately who to call in conference services to get the situation resolved. The crux of everything is that our on-property communication needs to be tight."

"The biggest change on the hotel side is the knowledge," says Cindy Novotny, managing partner of Master Connection Associates. "Anyone who touches the pharmaceutical guest—from front desk to transportation—needs to know the rules. As a hotel salesperson calling on a pharmaceutical client today, I need to know who they are and what they're talking about, or I'm not even going to get my foot in the door.

From Fun to Functional

The selling point for pharma and medical-meeting planners looking to book a conference with a resort or hotel is increasingly shifting away from an emphasis on fun to an eye toward functionality.

"Our selling directive from day one is that yes, we are a resort, but we're a learning environment as well," says David Sneider, director of national accounts for the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center. "The majority of folks who walk through here come for training and review. So we focus on the attributes of our conference center and away from the leisure activities."

For many resorts, that has meant increasing their audiovisual capabilities. For example, at the Scottsdale Resort, one of 21 properties in the Benchmark Hospitality International chain, speakers and guests have access to over $2.5 million worth of AV equipment, LCD projectors, wireless Internet and T1 lines.


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