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What makes a good hotel great?

The New York Times
Friday, November 16, 2012

PEOPLE often ask, "Can you recommend a good hotel?" Whether we are talking about London, Paris, New York, Fiji, Tahiti, Monte Carlo or Grand Rapids, Michigan, the answer depends on a raft of considerations.

Are you traveling on business or pleasure (or trying to combine the two)? Do you need a prestigious address to entertain, a high-tech command center to work and keep in touch with the office, or just a room for the night? How important is location? Are you looking for adventure, new experiences? What is your budget? And who is picking up the tab?

There is no one ideal "good" hotel, or "best" hotel or "best budget" hotel. We travel in different modes, different frames of mind, priorities, prejudices and motivations that can vary from trip to trip. Everyone expects a quiet, comfortable room with basic amenities.

Add to this the things we love to hate, such as wall-to-wall Muzak, $50 club sandwiches from room service, egregious phone charges and mini-bar prices—occasionally redeemed by a gesture beyond the call of duty, a sincere smile of recognition.

Small things make a big difference to the hotel "experience"—that elusive amalgam of comfort, service and "generous and cordial welcome" that I call "hospitality."

The best in Paris does not compare with the best in Broken Springs, Colorado or Fiji. You can compare amenities and features in categories such as "rural retreats" and "gourmet experiences." But surely you can only "rate" hotels in terms of categories, by comparing like with like.

Trent Walsh, managing director of Leading Quality Assurance in London, says, "Luxury five—star hotels must fulfil what you would expect: a good bathroom, separate shower, double sinks and quality linen.

But only 35 per cent of the assessment is based on product; the other 65 per cent depends on service, which is much more important. You can have the most wonderful product in the world, but if you don't couple it with a phenomenal service, you are not going to succeed in the luxury hotel market."


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