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05 January 2008

Hotels of quality and distinction

I blogged last year about problems with hotels and after a year of staying in them, I've got a good bit of first hand experience of what really works especially for someone staying for more than a few nights. In the same spirit of my gold standard for contact centres, I propose a similar standard for hotels.

1. Provide Wi-Fi, make it free and unrestricted. Anything password based via a webpage is a major irritation when all you want to do is use an email client, and it is time consuming and not guaranteed to work on a PDA. Wired internet in the bedroom is even better and almost makes it usable to webchat with the family back home.

2. Even if I prefer having a shower to taking a bath, having a room without a bath is cheap. It's a sign you are trying to cram as many guests as possible into a small a space as possible.

3. Provide FreeView, after all it's free.

4. Double beds (4ft 6" wide) are a bit of a joke in a hotel claiming to be quality. King, or ideally superking size is more like it.

5. Have showers that work and have constant decent pressure and temperature. Bit of a basic, but many fall at this hurdle. A glass partition next to the bath is far more preferable to a shower curtain that attacks you.

6. People have laminate flooring in their homes because it is easy to keep clean. Hotels with wooden bedroom floors get the same advantage. Carpets in bedrooms are fine but given the use they get in hotels with people wearing outdoor shoes, they get to look fairly shabby before too long.

7. Good quality pillows only cost a small amount extra and can make a huge difference to the comfort in the bed. The same applies to the duvet. Please provide a sheet under the duvet (comforter for those of you in the US).

8. The sports complexes at Village Hotels in the UK are fantastic and exceed even those I have seen in specialist keep fit centres. Something for other hotels to consider.

9. Friendly, helpful staff really make the hotel. Staff that are willing to engage in conversation rather than just act like robots make a huge difference.

10. Hotels that have bars that locals want to drink in are a huge plus. Not only is this a sign of quality that people choose to drink there because they want to rather than just because it's convenient and they are staying that night but with locals in there as well there is likely to be a decent atmosphere. Most hotel bars have about as much atmosphere as an airport departure lounge.

11. Providing the noise isn't a problem for guests, having a bar with decent live music is a major plus since this certainly relieves the boredom if you are travelling along and unless you are very sad you probably want to do more with your long term stay than just be cooped up in your room watching TV every night.

12. Provide healthy cereals for breakfast. Muesli for instance is supposed to be healthy, so why not supply it in a sugar-free variety but leave a bowl of sugar so that those who like sugar can add it if they want to.

13. The card that opens the door is usually also used to activate the room lights. However, the room light panel is not tied to a specific card, anyone will do. It pays to have a handy card handy (e.g. a gym pass or expired bank card with VOID written on it) so that if you want to go out and leave the laptop charging, you can do so by leaving said card in the light panel thus ensuring the electricity to the room doesn't cut out when you pop out for a few hours. It's handy when you can force the electricity to stay on in the room even when you're out.

14. Just because you provide a quality service there's no need to rip off customers. It's perfectly possible to charge only £10-£20 a night more than the absolutely most basic of hotels and provide outstanding quality and service. I know, I have stayed in such places and not surprisingly they were almost permanently fully booked.

15. Try and make the decor and room layout distinctive. I get a bit tired of the rectangular bedroom with the square bathroom in the corner just next to the door, the beige decor and the dull design. I've stayed in rooms with the bathrooms had windows (nice) and the room was triangular. Makes a nice change.

16. In 2008, there isn't really much excuse for a hotel still having 4:3 ratio CRT TVs. Widescreen TFT should be the norm.

17. Hotels provide TVs for people to watch, including films in the evening. Yet what are we supposed to sit on for 2 hours watching the film? The bed? No thanks, I stopped doing that as a student and the alternative is those uncomfortable hardback chairs. Any hotel that provides a chair on a par with what you might find in a living room (ie soft and comfortable) actually provides something you might want to watch that film in.

18. When I am booking online, give me the option of specifying whether it is a smoking room or not. Surprisingly many hotels still don't do this.

19. Have a help-yourself buffet for breakfast. Saying I can have a yoghurt or cereal for breakfast but not both is penny pinching.

20. Don't hardwire the TV to the aerial socket. I want to be able to unplug the aerial and plug it into my laptop so that I can record TV onto my laptop via the TV card.

21. If you run a busy pub as part of the hotel, you'll want to provide more female toilet capacity than male, otherwise there's a good chance that women will have to queue and the men won't. This is unfair.

22. Friendly, helpful staff really make a huge difference. I want to feel at home, not just that I'm stuck there for the night because I have no other choice. So important I said it twice.

It's also worth mentioning here that the best hotel I've ever stayed in is Benedicts of Belfast. So good, I lived there for 7 months. Everything they do is of the highest standard and it's the sort of place that other hoteliers aspiring to be distinctive, quality hotels with a friendly welcome should visit to learn how it's really done. It's no surprise it's consistently near the top of the trip advisor recommended hotels list, currently it's #2 although #1 doesn't have a bar.


That's all for the moment.

Craig
The author worked for the Scottish Tourist Board/VisitScotland from 2000-2006 although is writing in a private capacity here.
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