The news that Marriott was implementing a smoking ban in all U.S. and Canadian properties got the meeting industry listservs lighting up this morning, so to speak. I tried to get answers for most of the questions planners were posting in this article, including the impact on groups from other countries where smoking is more the norm, the effect on currently booked groups that have a large smoking contingency, and whether groups or individuals would be charged the cleanup fee if a smoker lit up anyway.
While many are heralding it as an idea that's long overdue and necessary to preserve the health of guests and hotel workers alike, others aren't so sure.
The Marriott person I spoke with stressed that they didn't want smokers to feel like "second-hand citizens," but the poor guy having a smoke with his morning coffee in the outside smoking area in Boston in January is not going to be feeling the love. There has to be another way to accommodate both smokers and nonsmokers: Souped-up exhaust systems, perhaps? A designated smoking wing? While the fear of having to inhale second-hand smoke of course has to be addressed, until smoking is outlawed outright, it just doesn't feel very hospitable to essentially tell a percentage of paying guests that their comfort doesn't matter.
Then again, restaurants, bars, airlines, even some beaches and entire towns haven't seen much falloff after instituting smoking bans, so my guess is that smokers will grumble, but they'll comply for the most part. Or book outside the block. Maybe some will even quit for the duration of the meeting, or even for good. But do you really want smokers in withdrawal in your sessions?
I should talk with Westin, which banned smoking in its U.S., Canadian, and Caribbean properties back in January, to see how it's going, but I can imagine this could be a deal-breaker for some groups, and definitely for some attendees.