Why The People Are The Best Element In Any Hotel Stay

There are many elements that go into making a hotel stay not just good or great, but truly memorable. After many travels and stays in many hotels, I set it upon myself to look into what separated the memorable stays from the “normal” ones.

Trying to think about what has impressed me over the years, my list contained numerous elements such as the decor of the reception area or the plushness of the bed. It included more gimmicky items such as bathroom mirrors that were also TVs or outdoor jacuzzis on a beach-fronted terrace. Then there were the usual suspects such as grand views of the Sydney Opera House and bridge or New York’s Central Park.

However in the end, every memorable experience and every positive memory I had was down to just a single element – the people. While the list above definitely adds to the experience, and in some ways at least one of those items needs to be present (after all, who wants to stay in a luxury hotel with a view of a dirty alley in an uncomfortable bed), the common element was still the people who made everything just that little bit more special.

To drive this point home, I’d like to go through some of the positive and memorable experiences I had where it was the people who really made it.

In a crowded breakfast room, the waiter who had served us the morning before remembered us and our need for coffee in the morning, and was always on-hand with refills.

A receptionist at a spa who, after a very late request from me for something that needed 24 hours notice, still managed to pull everything together and layout a romantic spa treatment for my husband and I.

An incredibly broad smile from an excited member of staff while holding the beach gate open for a surprise “dinner”. The “dinner” turned out to be a proposal and the staff were very much in on the secret!

When running late and bumping into a member of staff who was on their way to setup a surprise dinner in our room, she realised we were the guests and held up the tablecloth she happened to be carrying to hide the cart and other props from my view. All while keeping a straight face as if this was completely normal.

A hand-written note and tea making set (with tea, of course!) waiting in my room upon my return all based on a casual chat that I wanted to shop for some tea.

A spa where the staff wants you to book for time and not a specific treatment. Their philosophy being that what you booked for three weeks ago may not be what you need at the time of your appointment. As such, they set aside time to speak to you and find out what your needs are on the day, not just assuming that nothing has changed.

It is experiences like this – gestures, comments, the little things – that stand out in my mind and bring a smile when I relive those memories. They are also the talking points when I describe the great places I’ve been to and examples used in making recommendations. And after some time has passed, even if the decor was amazing, or the bed ridiculously comfortable, it’s still these interactions that we remember and value.

But of course not everywhere is like this. There are, unfortunately, bad experiences as well as good. And similarly, it tends to be the people that make a bad experience. Or at least make an average experience worse. And just like with positive experiences, it’s the negative interactions that we remember and talk about.

So then the question becomes – how do you ensure you get such good people at your next stay? The answer is a bit more complicated. One tip is that the better the brand and the more expensive and luxurious the hotel, the more likely they are to have highly trained, well-paid staff. This feeds directly into you getting great interactions. Generally if the staff are happy working somewhere, then this will pass onto their service to you. This of course is not a guarantee as bad apples can be found everywhere, but it is more likely.

A more solid suggestion is that you try and deal with the hotel’s staff beforehand as much as possible. Ideally before booking, but even after booking if you are getting good responses and good interactions via phone or email, it is usually indicative that you will receive good service at the hotel itself. So far in my travels, I’ve only had to cancel a booking once after dealing with unfriendly staff. However I’ve avoided booking in the first place a lot more for the same reason.

In the end, whenever I deal with a place, be it a hotel, restaurant, airline or a venue, it’s the level of engagement and competency of the people I deal with that I look our for. I also accept that the premium price I may pay for something is because I am paying for top-flight staff to deliver the product or service I’m after. This is, I personally feel, an often overlooked aspect and should always be something you should factor when choosing between a cheap and expensive option.

One comment

  1. Adam Hermitage

    Interesting, but using “well paid staff” and the hotel industry is a million miles from reality
    I say this from sharing my sons experiences working in “quality hotels”, most are on zero hours, no pension, turnover is huge and recruiting almost anyone really difficult.

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