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The demise of guest privacy

25 May 2012
The demise of guest privacy

What has happened to confidentiality and discretion in hotel-keeping, asks Stephen David, chef-patron of the Crown At Woodbridge in Suffolk

It might not be a very fashionable viewpoint but for me modern communications are doing little for our industry at present. They are adversely impacting room rates with the pressure of the discount mentality, helping hoteliers to be blackmailed in return for favourable reviews, encouraging staff to talk to the press and general managers to tweet about guests. The temptations and pitfalls of social media are surely plain to see.

Several decades ago, or even more recently, the Royal Family on personal visits to friends and family would have been protected; hotels would have just felt privileged to host them rather than exploiting details of their stay to all and sundry in the press and across social media and the internet. Surely one would realise that if these royals want their private affairs bandied around, would their equerries not issue a press statement? But sadly these cheap publicity stunts are being pulled more and more in the name of vain PR and cynical marketing.

Sorry episodes such as these undoubtedly reap huge financial rewards in the short term but at what cost? Surely in future, those public figures and celebrity clients, or their friends and families, will look elsewhere when seeking to book a discreet event to indulge their nearest and dearest.

Beyond the danger of being excluded permanently from the "little black books" of the rich and famous, obsessing about the so-called "VIPs" within your midst runs the risk that the operation descends to farce. I imagine something akin to a scene from Fawlty Towers, with a fawning manager, star-struck staff, an over-indulged table of celebrities and hangers-on whilst the basic needs of the other guests are barely met or ignored.

In our business, a boutique inn-hotel-restaurant in a charming riverside East Suffolk town, we are fortunate to be somewhat of a fashionable destination and our outside catering company looks after swish events across East Anglia for aristocratic clients and the wealthy. Perhaps more versed with having public figures and royalty in our midst on a frequent basis, we realise that these well-known personalities do not want to be recognised, do not seek nor expect preferential treatment and do not wish to have their private lives publicly laid-bare by PR-desperate management or errant staff. And well, if they do want to be "spotted", they will have arranged for the paparazzi to be camped outside.

For us, only by having a corporate good sense and perhaps old-fashioned morality combined with a firm direction for our team on the subject of indiscretion (and likely ramifications for their future careers), can we ensure that guest privacy is maintained and continue to be a favourite bolthole for all those, famous or otherwise, looking for a discreet escape.

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