Meet the Auditor - Suzanne Sotnick, an experienced Travelife auditor, tells us about the new Travelife checklist and training

In our last newsletter you may have read about Suzanne Sotnick, who has been a Travelife auditor for several years and recently updated her qualifications to audit against the new checklist. Suzanne gives an overview of what an audit against the new checklist looks like, sharing her insight on preparations and on what happens on the day of an audit.

"The easiest part of the audit is my preparation for the day. Firstly I carry out a desktop assessment, well in advance of my appointment, focusing on the sustainable policies that the hotelier provides beforehand. Also I check the hotelís website to ascertain what facilities they offer, to advise the management which areas of the hotel I wish to visit. Hoteliers should bear in mind that the better prepared they are prior to the audit, the less time it will take. During my initial contact with the hotel, I advise them of what type of paperwork or supporting evidence I will need to see and that my time spent at the hotel will be shorter if it was provided."

Opening Meeting
"On the day itself, I make sure I am armed with my laptop, as well as my white coat and hairnet, to access kitchen areas. The new audit commences with an opening meeting with the hotel manager to agree the areas that I will need to see, the key staff members that I would like to speak to, such as head of purchasing, HR, head housekeeper, technical services manager, head gardener or chef. I then request a copy of the payroll, so that I am able to choose staff members randomly, to conduct confidential formal interviews. Once I have chosen the three staff members that I want, I ask the hotelier to organize a time for me to meet with them. The whole opening meeting should take approximately half an hour if the management is well prepared and the paperwork is available for me to see."

"We then set off on our inspection of the hotel, perhaps with the head of technical services and gardener. During this part of the inspection, we will view all equipment, including swimming pool or machine plant rooms and chemical storage areas, discussing operating times and the functionality of equipment. I also ascertain the type of training delivered to the relevant staff, as well as inspecting the garden irrigation systems etc."

"During the hotel walk-through, I inspect all departments to ensure that relevant extracts of the hotel sustainability policies are clearly displayed on staff noticeboards. I then move on to catering areas with the chef, where I inspect equipment, looking at air conditioning, refrigerator and freezer systems, including how well they are working. We then move on to the staff dining room, to ascertain that adequate information is provided on the noticeboards and that staff are eating in hygienic conditions, with their dietary needs met. We then look at the childrenís play areas and facilities. I also speak to the person in charge of HR to check the salaries paid to employees and those important issues including overtime payment/lieu time, maternity, paternity and sickness benefit regulations are being respected. I will also review a random selection of staff contracts. We then inspect the guest rooms, checking the types of light bulbs, air conditioning systems, whether water flow devices are in place, how sustainability information is displayed in the guest rooms, which includes towel and bed linen usage. I also check for automatic devices to switch off air conditioning whilst the windows and doors are open. Whilst visiting outdoor areas of the hotel, I check the types of external lighting, waste areas and guest recycling facilities. Wow, what a day!"

End of the audit
"I am able to carry out the audit within 5 or 6 hours, depending on the size of the property and its facilities. When the hotel walk-through is finished, I sit in a quiet area and write up the audit, ensuring all questions have been covered. This takes just over half an hour as I write plenty of notes whilst conducting the physical inspection. Afterwards I have a final closing meeting with the hotel management to discuss their progress and areas for improvements. Improvements can be made during the following days and the management can then forward either photographic evidence or further paperwork to me, showing that the issues have been addressed. Once this evidence has been received, I upload the audit report, which is then forwarded to the Travelife team in the UK. "

"I wonít know the final outcome of the audit until it is finalised by the Travelife head office. Therefore, like the hotels themselves, I always wait with anticipation to get notification of the result from Rocco Bonomo, the Travelife Coordinator, who does a great job of ensuring that all audit results are fair. It gives me a great thrill when I hear one of the hotels I have audited have achieved a Travelife Gold award. Itís not easy to achieve so if you manage it, you should be very proud of yourself."