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Poacher turned gamekeeper?

07 March 2016
Poacher turned gamekeeper?

Hotel consultant and former managing director of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Philip Newman-Hall, explains why more hoteliers need to be guests to experience their rooms from another perspective

Having just spent five weeks travelling and seeing our industry from the other side of the fence, I have returned with many questions.

I don't want this to sound like a rant, but I think we, as hoteliers, may have forgotten what it is to be a guest in our properties.

Why if I am staying for more than one night, for instance, do I not receive the same amenities on night two or three as I do on night one? If I checked out and checked in again each day I would receive fresh fruit, linen and toiletries. I don't pay any less on day two or day three. I know there is a trend in the industry to say that we are green by not changing linen, but guests are not fools. We all know it's about saving money and I feel a tide surging against this.

Talking of toiletries, I may be over 50 and my eyesight is not what it once was, but why can't we provide toiletries that guests have a chance to read without their glasses or contact lenses when in the shower? Also, many of the bottle tops are smooth, which, with wet hands, you have no chance of taking off.

I am sure many broken teeth have resulted from guests struggling to open bottles. It has been some years since I've needed to use a hairdryer, but Mrs NH certainly has regular reason to do so. You would think that when designing a hotel room, consideration would be given to positioning a plug socket alongside a mirror, light and chair to allow the drying of hair to take place easily and in comfort. But no, so often Mrs NH has had to perform this task kneeling down, staring at a blank wall.

I love turndown, but I don't want to be asked if I want it at 5.30pm. Come the practice itself, I don't need everything rearranged and put on little towels. There are reasons I have placed my belongings where I want them. I am paying for the room and I surely have a right to put things where I wish.

When did technology overtake guest comfort? I am not just talking the inoperable TV and music system for anyone who is over 21, but just the basics. Why can't I switch the bedroom lights off from the bed? If I am only staying one night I don't want to spend an hour trying to understand how to turn everything on and off.

Technology, of course, provides us with the problem of ambient light. We used to be able to go to sleep in a darkened room, but now there are so many different coloured lights, from the blue on the Wi-Fi to the red on the TV and the green on the coffee machine. One room I stayed in had 12 different lights on at night. We will soon need to provide eye shades.

Why am I ranting like this? I just think that we may have forgotten what it is like to be a guest. We are designing bedrooms that look good, but which are a huge frustration to stay in.

When I was at Le Manoir, I slept in one of the 32 bedrooms at least twice a month, with other members of the team also staying over, to ensure we all understood the guest experience. I urge all hoteliers to do the same.

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