The 12 commandments – for luxury hotels

[words Mark Eveleigh / photograph Jonathan Perugia, The WideAngle]

During almost two decades as travel journalists, we’ve stayed in grungy backpacker ghettos everywhere from Delhi to Vic Falls to Mexico City, and we’ve roughed it (delightedly) in remote wilderness camps on four continents. In the course of research for some prestigious magazines, however, we’ve also checked into some of the most celebrated luxury hotels in the world.

On one such assignment last week, we discussed (while sipping a glass of bubbly in our private plunge pool) what it is that makes a hotel “luxury”. And it’s not just pillow menus, organic bath salts, a view to die for and bathrooms the size of an apartment – it’s service, too. For example, a 4-star hotel doesn’t forget to pick guests up at the airport. They don’t forget wake-up calls. For USD400 a night, guests have a right to expect hot water.

These points go without saying, right? Yet one of Mozambique’s finest made all these slip-ups recently. And more…but this is not the place for a rant about a single case of shoddy service.

If you are PR or management of a luxury hotel, the following list is based on the assumption you know the basics. These are the fine-tuning points that make all the difference between a contented check-out and a rave review from a delighted guest who is eager to return. Small tweaks, as we said. If you’re a guest, please feel free to add your comments.

WHAT WE LIKE

1/ Freedom to make our own coffee We appreciate that you have wonderfully attentive room-service and that in-room coffee-making facilities went out with washing lines over the bath…but, face it, guests do appreciate coffee-making facilities. (And their appreciation is directly in proportion to the quality of the coffee, and being able to choose fresh milk over the powdered variety.)

2/ One switch Life is so much easier when there is one switch next to the bed that turns off all the lights, or that allows the option of a single dim nightlight for those who prefer it.

3/ iPod docking stations Most of us can live without them but (like hair-driers) enough of your guests appreciate these devices to warrant their inclusion.

4/ Free WiFi When you’re paying what it costs to stay in a luxury hotel, being expected to pay up to USD25 extra for Internet is ludicrous. Account for it in the rack-rate if you must, but you are steadily alienating your guests by charging for what your competitors offer gratis.

5/ Darkness Lightweight privacy curtains serve their purpose, but guests appreciate the option of closing thick blackout curtains. This is particularly important if your guests include southern Europeans and others who habitually sleep behind shutters; it’s likely they won’t appreciate an unexpected 4am daylight wake-up call that adds to their jetlag problems.

6/ Good quality towels One concierge told me that Jon Bon Jovi refuses to check into any hotel that won’t supply 50 black velvet towels for his toilette. (Urban myth…? Feel free to respond, Jon). Budget accommodation guests are happy for any towels. But in hotels that are 4-star upward, we appreciate good quality towels. That ‘pillow menu’ offering a choice of five different pillows and duvets might be taking the point to extremes (any comment on this one, Jon…?), but towels can deteriorate so easily without anyone noticing. It’s vital QC.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE

1/ Overpriced booze in the mini-bar When you’re charging top-rate for accommodation, your guests feel like mugs when faced with a minibar price-list at more than five times the local rate.

2/ Restricted access You know those security lifts where you have to swipe your electronic door card before you can punch buttons? Three people get in the lift for different floors and all have to swipe individually. Tedious. We have faith in you taking care of security in your hotel – don’t make us do it for you.

3/ Being left in the dark The door cards that turn off ALL your power when you leave the room are environmentally sound, but please give us an option to recharge important batteries and devices while we’re out of the room.

4/ Insufficient sockets Some hotel rooms have just one electrical socket, hidden down an inaccessible gap beside the desk. But this is 2012, and these days even your leisure clients are travelling with several gadgets and cameras that have to be charged, and allowance for this needs to be made with ample electrical outlets.

5/ Which switch? Some light-switch configurations are so complex, you have to flick 10 switches and then hunt around behind curtains and under bedside tables for 20 minutes before you get into bed. If that’s the way the rooms are wired, please label each switch so guests don’t turn their room into a disco before going to sleep.

6/ Confusing taps Some manufacturers deemed it unnecessary to label which side of a tap is hot. To save water, please choose fittings that clearly label – simply, in red and blue – which tap is hot, and which is cold.

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