05 June 2011

What all hoteliers should know

For the past four weeks, I have been in France researching the latest Frommer's guidebook to Provence. This involved 21 different hotel/apartment stays in 27 nights. Over the years, I've stayed in more hotels than I can remember, but having this prolonged period away from home has really focused my mind on what hoteliers consistently get wrong – as well as what they do right.

First things first: all hoteliers should spend at least two nights in their own hotels – with their luggage. If you're male, then get your wife, sister or other frank female to do the same. Too often no one bothers to get a woman's point of view. This is daft, as it's usually the woman who chooses the accommodation for the family holiday.

Secondly, the bathroom. I've stayed in brand-new five-star hotels with fantastic showers that have leaked all over the floor. And why can't people put a shelf in the shower? All those lovely fittings and nowhere to put your shampoo except on the floor. If a designer tries to tell you that shelves will "spoil the line", slap him. Oh, and a strong hook wouldn't go amiss either for people with hanging toiletries cases. (In fact, hooks in general are a good thing. More, please.)

Beautifully designed bathrooms with very deep basins look lovely. But spare a thought for short-sighted women who need to get close to a mirror to put on makeup. If the main mirror is three feet away, have the decency to put a small makeup mirror on the side wall. To those hotels that have already done so, thank you. It's very appreciated.

A special plea to French hoteliers that, unfortunately, will go unnoticed: put up a shower curtain. Otherwise, if you're determined to have an open shower, then leave a huge pile of towels to mop up the floor. If you've gone to the trouble to put up a shower screen, try to find one that actually works.

Small pedal bins in the bathroom are the work of the devil and should be banned. As are those chrome covers for the toilet roll. It is not aesthetically displeasing to see an uncovered bin or a naked toilet roll. We can handle it, trust me.

Very rarely are there enough plug sockets for today's traveller. These days, not many of us go around without a mobile phone, laptop, digital camera, iPod, etc, and all of them need to be charged up at some point.

And another thing: full-length mirrors. They don't need to take up much space and can easily be fitted behind the door of a wardrobe. Speaking of wardrobes, can we have more than five hangers? And can we have deep enough hanging space for dresses? I recently stayed in a supposedly "superior" room whose wardrobe was too short to hang a T-shirt.

I want to hug hoteliers who have the trust to leave a proper hair dryer in the bathroom – one that doesn't require constantly pressing a button to get the silly thing to work. Some people's hands cramp quickly. Thankfully, some manufacturers have come up with a model that is stuck to the wall but has a proper on-off switch. They do exist; I've seen them.

If you advertise free wifi, do make it clear when it works only in reception and not in the rooms. During this trip, I stayed in everything from two-star to five-star hotels, and not a single one charged for wifi. The luxury hotels that do are just being greedy. Add it to the cost of the room if you feel the need.

I have yet to see the point to a turndown service, except for the chocolates and perhaps a bottle of water. They're intrusive, almost always done when you're still getting ready to go out, and it's not very relaxing to feel compelled to tidy up before you go out for the evening. Leave the chocolates and the water during the morning clean-up.

Hotel breakfasts have become ridiculously overpriced and this is something that deserves its own blog post. Since when did the cost of breakfast equal or exceed the price of lunch?

Most of these suggestions require very little expense, and most hotels can certainly afford the odd hook or mirror here and there. These little things might sound insignificant, but they all add up.


  1. Agree mostly with what you've said here, but why have you taken the 'consider women' stance? Mirrors need to be close in order that men can shave too.

  2. Hi Del. Good point, and taken. Of course, being a woman, I was banging on about the things that annoyed me personally. I'm sure men would like to be able to see what they're doing when they're shaving. What I'd like to know is how thoroughly these rooms are tested before the paying public is let loose in them.

  3. A plea to the US hotels too - let me open the windows! I don't want air conditioning all the time.

    And more clothes hangers that aren't attached to the rail. As a woman, I like to hang things up! I can't think that many travellers are stealing them... some decent black plastic ones will do.

  4. Hi Jet. I agree on both points. Sealed windows are a nuisance. Surely there are ones you can open safely and get some real air. And hangers are another bugbear. As you say, sometimes you need to hang things up somewhere other than the wardrobe.