I don’t plan to blog about Tyler Brule every day, but his column in today’s FT is too delicious to miss — the subtle art of making sure your hotel guests are up to snuff:
Hoteliers spend a lot of time working on both the software and hardware to make for the perfect stay – at least, the best ones do. Newspapers and magazines devote countless column inches in their travel pages covering these developments at various hotels featuring the latest spa with yet another interpretation of a hot-stone treatment (how much room is there for innovation when it comes to lining up warm stones along a guest’s spine?), groundbreaking showers that reverse the ageing process and communications technology so smart you can order room service via Wi-Fi just by blinking the number of the item on the menu. Happy customers will spread the word by talking up the food, the service and the breathtaking views.
Rarely, however, is there much discussion about the most important and uncontrollable element of all – the guests themselves. For all the websites devoted to peer reviews and all the guidebooks that make bookshop shelves sag, there’s little space given to the types of people that a certain hotel attracts or repels.
It’s controversial territory to start ranking hotels by the quality of the guests but then that’s also part of the fun. I’m convinced that if I launched a series of guidebooks and accompanying website to support this idea there’d be no shortage of special interest groups lobbying for its closure because it would be seen as ageist, sexist, racist, anti-silicone, anti-Botox, homophobic and toddler-intolerant. It would also be highly readable and before long would be available in over 16 languages.
If a hotel can get all the basics right, then all that’s left to ensure that you return season after season are the quality of guests you’ll be lying next to by the sea, perusing the breakfast buffet with at 8am and gently smiling at when you share the lift. But how does a good general manager attract the right crowd?
I think about this often, because we’ve returned five times since 2001 to a small, quiet resort south of Montreal, Hovey Manor, partly because we’ve never once spent time around people there we wanted to flee.
How undemocratic! What snottiness!
After all the time I spend/endure dealing with New Yorkers’ monumental egos, braying cellphone conversations, dodging them as they race down the sidewalk staring into their PDAS expecting you, peon, to move, the last thing I can possibly cope with on vacation is….more of the same. I once flew all the way to bloody Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and ended up in a hotel that was full of the same sort of people I spend energy avoiding at home. Never again.
Hovey Manor manages to be elegant but not stuffy, warm and welcoming but not clingy, cosy but not schmaltzy. We always find there a few interesting, fun companions — the former ballet dancer with red hair to her waist, a judge and her psychologist husband, the Grand Prix fans on their way to Montreal.
And, sorry, no kids. I don’t know if they are not allowed, but the only non-adult I’ve ever seen was a boy of perhaps 15, perfectly-behaved. It’s not — thank God — a place where caps are worn at the table or cellphones are welcome everywhere. However silly it sounds, and I love it, one dresses for dinner.
A vacation is a precious time to relax and recharge. So, no, I don’t want to watch you play tonsil hockey with your 30-years-younger gal pal. Nor do I want to hear your music leaking from your earbuds or have to fight over the pool-side chairs. I really don’t want to deal with shrieking little children.
So I tend to choose smaller, European-style inns or boutique hotels.
Yet, as a traveler who oscillates happily between luxury and penury, I’ll be at the Vancouver youth hostel for two nights this summer, $38 a night for a room that might have 16 others in it. As someone who shared space for many years at camp and boarding school, it’s not a big deal — unless they snore.
Have you had a vacation ruined — or made wonderful — by the people at your hotel?