Monthly Archives: June 2017

Things Luxury in Hotels Can Teach About Exceptional Customer Service

After a long day of business meetings, sightseeing or catching up with old friends, travelers appreciate arriving at a comfortable and clean hotel room to rest their heads. And, generally, all anyone really wants is a clean and quiet place to shower, shave and sleep. Everything else is gravy.

Yet, I would argue that hotel staff and managers have the hardest customer service jobs out there. Travelers have all sorts of peculiar needs and expectations. And, in my experience, luxury hotels do an amazing job of providing them. Below, I’ve listed three things businesses can learn from the hospitality industry to create a more seamless and memorable customer service experience.

1. Attention to detail

Some of the most impressive things hotels do go unnoticed. From the careful setting of toiletries to the thoughtful placement of furniture, hotel staff have paid close attention to dozens of minor details that collectively enhance the quality of your stay.

In 2012, travel writer Sarah Lee noted some of the neat extras that came with her room at the Shangri-La Toronto. These included an in-room iPad, a Nespresso machine, complimentary bottles of water, remote-controlled drapes and blinds, a nightlight, steam-free mirrors and under-floor heating.

Although these amenities may seem superfluous, they go a long way in making guests feel right at home.

2. Personalized experiences

To effectively serve its guests’ unique needs, Accor Hotels piloted a new customer recognition program. For a month, staff checked guests’ public social media profiles to learn their interests, and what they then did with that information is inspirational. Hospitality marketing expert Josiah Mackenzie explained the personalized offerings for a variety of types of guests:

  • “For the guest who likes fine dining, [Accor Hotels provided] an all-day behind-the-scenes tour of Tru in Chicago [a luxurious French dining experience], along with a night at the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower.”
  • “For the guest who likes fishing, an eco-friendly fishing trip in the San Diego Bay.”
  • “For the guest who likes luxury cars, a certificate to drive a Ferrari and Lamborghini.”
  • “For the guest who likes lounging in spas, a day at the Hela spa in Washington, DC, plus an overnight stay at the Sofitel.”
  • “For the guest who likes sports, VIP tickets to a hockey game between the San Jose Sharks and the Red Wings.”

Hyatt Hotels & Resorts is another hospitality company that has focused on “personalized” experience. Because travelers visit new places to seek out local experiences, Hyatt improves guests’ experience by bringing local culture to its hotels. According to the VHT blog:

  1. “Grand Hyatt in San Francisco commissioned local artists to paint its walls with images that embody the essence of the city.”
  2. “The upcoming opening of Hyatt’s Andaz luxury hotel in Tokyo will deliver ‘an unscripted, Japanese-inspired experience to guests that will help them feel truly connected to the heart and soul of Tokyo.’”
  3. “The Grand Hyatt Taipei, with its courteous staff of locals, has become an ‘iconic’ symbol of the capital by both nationals and tourists.”

3. Going ‘above and beyond’

Ritz-Carlton guest Chris Hurn relates the above-and-beyond customer service his wife and two children enjoyed when they returned home after a stay at the Ritz-Carlton. They arrived home only to realize that a family member named Joshie had gone missing.

Joshie, was, and is, none other than a stuffed giraffe; and Hurn’s son was particularly fond of the toy.

In a blog post, Hurn wrote, “[My son] was absolutely distraught when faced with the idea of going to sleep without his favorite pal.” So, to ease his son’s mind, Hurn fabricated a story about Joshie taking an extended vacation. By a stroke of luck, the Loss Prevention Team at the Ritz phoned the Hurn family that very evening to tell them they had found Joshie.

On that call, Hurn made an unusual request. “I came clean to the staff about the story I told my son and asked if they would mind taking a picture of Joshie on a lounge chair by the pool to substantiate my fabricated story.” The Loss Prevention Team happily joined in the ruse. Wrote Hurn: “I hung up the phone very relieved.”

Pretty good customer service, if you ask me. But what the staff at the Ritz did next surprised everyone. “A couple of days went by, and we received a package from the hotel,” Hurn says of what occurred. “It was my son’s Joshie, along with some Ritz-Carlton-branded ‘goodies’ (a frisbee, football, etc.).”

Also included in the package: a binder that meticulously documented Joshie’s extended stay at the Ritz. This quirky photo evidence of Joshie enjoying his time alone at the Ritz absolutely delighted the family. And by offering it, Ritz-Carlton transformed what could have been a family tragedy into an opportunity to deliver happiness and a lot of smiles.

Hotel Secrets from Behind the Front Desk

1. HOTELS ARE RAKING IT IN.

The fact that a hotel could fail to be profitable astounds me. Why? The average cost to turn over a room, to keep it operational per day, is between $30 and $40. If you’re paying less than $30 dollars a night at a hotel/motel, I’d wager the cost to flip that room runs close to $5. Which makes me want to take a shower. At home. That $40 turnover cost includes cleaning supplies, electricity, and hourly wages for housekeepers, minibar attendants, front desk agents, and all other employees needed to operate a room as well as the cost of laundering the sheets. Everything. Compare that with an average room rate, and you can see why it’s a profitable business.

2. STAYING FOR JUST ONE NIGHT? YOU MIGHT GET “WALKED.”

The term “walking a guest” sends shivers down any manager’s spine. Since the average no-show rate is 10 percent daily, hotels will overbook whenever possible. The sales and reservations departments are encouraged to book the property to 110 percent capacity, in the hopes that with cancellations and no-shows they will fill every room. What happens when the numbers game doesn’t play in the hotel’s favor? Someone gets walked. The hotel will now pay for the entire night’s room and tax (plus one phone call—how cute is that?) at another comparable hotel in the area.

A guest is more likely to get walked if:
1. He booked using Expedia, hence he has a deeply discounted rate and is less important.
2. He never stayed here before and may never visit the city again.
3. He’s a one-nighter.
4. And this one is so much more important than all the others: He is acting like a jerk.

3. SMART COMPLAINERS WIN.

Though most complaints should be delivered to the front desk directly, in person or on the phone, keep in mind that most issues will not have been caused by the front desk at all. So briefly outline your problem, offer a solution if you have one, and then ask whom you should speak with to have the problem solved. “Should I speak to a manager about this?” “Should I speak to housekeeping about this?” Those are wonderful and beautiful questions to ask. Most of the time, the front desk will be able to solve the problem immediately or at least act as proxy.

Want to make sure that the agent doesn’t nod, say “certainly,” and not do a damn thing? Get his or her name. Nothing tightens up an employee’s throat like being directly identified. You don’t have to threaten him or her either, just a nice casual “Thanks for your help. I’ll stop by later to make sure everything has been taken care of. Tommy, right?” Whatever you asked me to do I am doing it. (Will screaming get you what you want? Well, probably. But it’s not nearly as effective.)

4. THERE’S A BETTER WAY TO CASE A PILLOW.

To put on a pillowcase, the housekeepers throw a solid karate chop right down the middle of the pillow and then shove it in, folded like a bun. This method is preferred to the civilian method of tucking it under your chin and pulling up the pillowcase like a pair of pants because these ladies have no interest in letting 50 pillows a day come into contact with their faces.

5. ENJOY YOUR LEMONY FRESH GLASSES.

You know what cleans the hell out of a mirror, and I’m talking no streaks? Windex? No. Furniture polish. Spray on a thick white base, rub it in, and you’ll be face-to-face with a spotless, streak-free mirror. However, I am not recommending you take this tip and apply it in your own home. Though using furniture polish is quick and effective, over time it causes a waxy buildup that requires a deep scrub.

The housekeepers kept this move behind closed doors along with another dirty secret I didn’t discover until I walked in on ladies with Pledge in one hand and a minibar glass in the other. Keeping those glasses clean-looking was also part of the job. So the next time you put a little tap water into the glass and wonder why it has a pleasant lemon aftertaste, it’s because you just took a shot of Pledge.

6. NEVER, EVER PAY FOR THE MINIBAR.

Minibars. Most people are appalled at the prices. However, you never have to pay for the items in the minibar. Why not? Minibar charges are, without question, the most disputed charges on any bill. That is because the process for applying those charges is horribly inexact. Keystroke errors, delays in restocking, double stocking, and hundreds of other missteps make minibar charges the most voided item. Even before guests can manage to get through half of the “I never had those items” sentence, I have already removed the charges and am now simply waiting for them to wrap up the overly zealous denial so we can both move on with our lives.

7. BOOK ON A DISCOUNT SITE, GET A DISCOUNT EXPERIENCE.

Reservations made through Internet discount sites are almost always slated for our worst rooms. Does this seem unfair? First of all, we earn the slimmest profit from these reservations. And honestly, those guests didn’t really choose our property based on quality; they chose based on value. We were at the top of a list sorted by price. But the guest behind them in line, the one with a heavy $500 rate, she selected this hotel. When she comes to New York, she goes to our website to see what’s available. Since we have no reason to assume Internet guests will ever book with us again, unless our discount is presented to them, it truly makes business sense to save our best rooms for guests who book of their own volition.

8. BELLMEN HATE YOUR SUITCASE—BUT NOT BECAUSE IT’S HEAVY.

Bernard Sadow: the man all bellmen hate, though they’ve never heard his name. In 1970, he invented the wheeled suitcase, the bane of the bellman’s existence. Before that, the bellman was a necessity, a provider of ease and comfort, a useful member of society. When Sadow sold his first prototype to Macy’s in October 1970, he instigated a catastrophic change in the hospitality environment, causing the once noble species to retreat, rethink, and reemerge as a hustler fighting for survival. Sadow might as well have invented the phrase no bellman wants to hear, the phrase that leaves bills unpaid and ruins Christmas: “No, thanks, I got it.” Or that surprisingly prevalent and ignorant phrase: “I don’t want to bother him.” Don’t want to bother him? The man has a family. No one is being bothered here!

9. FRONT DESK AGENTS CAN ALSO BE AGENTS OF KARMA.

Any arriving guest should receive what are referred to as initial keys, which are programmed to reset the door lock when they are first inserted, deactivating all previous keys. Not until the keys expire or a new initial key enters the lock will the keys fail to work. With a “key bomb,” I cut one single initial key and then start over and cut a second initial key. Either one of them will work when you get to the room, and as long as you keep using the very first key you slipped in, all will be well.

But chances are you’ll pop in the second key at some point, and then the first key you used will be considered invalid. Trace that back to me? Not a chance. Trace that back to the fact that you told your 9-year-old daughter to shut her mouth while harshly ripping off her tiny backpack at check-in? Never.

10. THERE’S ONE SUREFIRE WAY TO GET AN UPGRADE.

Here is one of the top lies that come out of a front desk agent’s mouth: “All the rooms are basically the same, sir.”

Bull. There is always a corner room, a room with a bigger flat screen, a room that, because of the building’s layout, has a larger bath with two sinks, a room that fits two roll-aways with ease, a room that, though listed as standard, actually has a partial view of the Hudson River. There is always a better room, and when I feel that 20 you slipped me burning in my pocket, I will find it for you. And if there is nothing to be done room-wise, I have a slew of other options: late checkout, free movies, free minibar, room service amenities, and more. I will do whatever it takes to deserve the tip and then a little bit more in the hope that you’ll hit me again.

Most Incredible 7 Star Hotels In The World

Everyone loves a little luxury in their lives, especially when they travel. Who wouldn’t want to spend their few precious vacation days, experiencing the best that their chosen destination has to offer? One of the many ways to indulge yourself when you’re on vacation is by choosing a lavish hotel to stay at. While a five star hotel is a great way to feel like a Prince or Princess during your vacation, why not go bigger? Why not stay at a hotel that has exceeded five star status? A hotel that is so decadent and extraordinary, it will make you feel like a true King or Queen. The hotels listed below are so extraordinary that they have made it into the elite seven star group.

Below is a list of five hotels that will make your jaw drop. These hotels are expensive, beautiful but most importantly, luxurious. They are located in some of the most sought after vacation destinations in the world, so they will all make the perfect getaway. But be careful, if you get the opportunity to stay in one of these incredible hotels, you may never want to leave, because who wants to go home when you get a taste of pure luxury.

5. Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi

The Emirates Palace is a hotel that has made it all the way into seven star luxury, and rightly so. The hotel cost a cool 3.9 billion to build, but we’re sure all of its guests would agree that it was worth every penny. Emirates Palace is located in Abu Dhabi on its very own private beach, that is surrounded by miles of beautiful gardens. Many of the suites available at the Emirates Palace are furnished in gold and marble. The rooms are so luxurious that the top tier suites are reserved for Emirate royalty and dignitaries. During your stay at the Emirates Palace, you can indulge in Albino Caviar, and $15,000 cognacs. If that’s not your thing, you can also swim at one of the two swimming pools, take a dip in the ocean at your own private beach, play some tennis, take a visit to the spa and even play rugby or soccer. If your feeling ready to book your visit to the Emirates Palace, you better open your checkbooks because room prices can exceed $12,000 per a night.

4. iSquare Hotel & Mall, Orlando

By the year 2017, a new seven-star, luxurious hotel will be available for stay in Orlando, Florida. The hotel plans to have 1,256 rooms, all of which will be up to the seven star taste-level. The hotel will cost a grand total of $400 million dollars to build and will include two towers, an observation deck, shops for ever taste, restaurants and even an ice-skating rink. The hotel’s developer, the Blackmine Group, said this about the soon-to-be luxury hotel, the property will have a, “swanky, irresistible vibe that makes each guest feel like a celebrity or billionaire.” Let’s hope this seven star hotel lives up to the hype.

3. Pangu Plaza (Morgan Plaza), Beijing

The Pangu Plaza, previously called the Morgan Plaza, is another seven star hotel, but this one is located in the Olympic District of Beijing, China. This hotel is the top luxury hotel in Beijing and has played host to big time moguls such as Bill Gates. The hotel boasts two pavilions, a temple, and it contains one of the world’s best Japanese restaurants. Luxury is dripping throughout the entire hotel. The lobby is decorated with marble pillars and Henry woodcarvings, while the suites are decorated with silken wallpaper and all the amenities that any guest could ask for. Traditional Chinese décor is found throughout the suites, giving guests a sense of Chinese History without even leaving the hotel room. It’s rumored that the apartments at the Morgan Plaza can be rented for around $800,000 a year, which is exactly what Bill Gates did during the Beijing Olympics. And if it’s good enough for Bill Gates, it’s probably good enough for us.

2. The Pentominium, Dubai

Although construction on the Pentominium was recently halted due to lack of finances, the impressive building still aims to be one of the most amazing structures in the world. When the structure finally reaches completion, it will become one of the tallest residential buildings in the world, with a height of 1,693 feet. The Pentominium is located on the coast of Dubai. Although the Pentominium is best known as a residential building, rather than a hotel, the residents living in the Pentominium will be treated more like hotel guests than residents. This is because of the amount of luxury that they will be experiencing on a day-to-day basis. When the building is completed, the residents will be able to enjoy hotel-like amenities such as butler service, the use of luxury vehicles that are owned by the Pentominium, and they will be able to participate in sailing trips. In addition, residents can enjoy the use of the indoor pool with a spectacular view of the coastline, as well as getting a drink at one of the swanky bars located in the building. When the building does finally reach completion, you better sign up to get your room fast, I’m sure there are many people who wouldn’t mind spending all their days as if they’re on vacation.

1. Burj Al Arab Hotel, Dubai

Dubai must be the place to go to find one-of-a-kind luxury because Burj Al Arab is another seven star hotel located in Dubai. The magnificent hotel stands on an artificial island that is connected to the mainland by a private bridge. The hotel is made to look like the sail of a ship, so it might just be the most beautiful and luxurious hotel you ever stay at. The hotel contains 202 bedroom suites, with The Royal Suite coming in at $18,716 per a night. The hotel was designed to show the meeting of East and West, making it a beautiful fusion of different cultures. During your stay at the Burj Al Arab Hotel, you can eat at one of its two delicious restaurants, one of which can be accessed by taking a simulated submarine voyage, take a relaxing day at the spa, get room service from your own private butler, take a fifteen minute helicopter ride to get the one-of-a-kind view of Dubai, rent one of your dream cars, and even go to the Wild Wado Waterpark. The Burj Al Arab Hotel has been called, “the world’s only seven-Star hotel.” Although the management at Burj Al Arab claims to have never advertised this themselves, we at The Richest, think you will have the vacation of a lifetime if you choose to stay at the Burj Al Arab Hotel.

World’s Best Beach Hotels

Weary of the politics and stresses of Ancient Rome, Emperor Tiberius fled to Capri, where he spent his last decade in sumptuous villas enjoying a secluded island life.

Two millennia later, most of us can relate to the emperor.

We also seek refuge from our daily routine at seaside resorts — if only for a week, rather than 10 years. And while Tiberius had to first build himself a dozen palatial retreats, today’s beachgoers don’t need to do any heavy lifting. Luxurious hotels and resorts dot the world’s coastlines. You’ll even find them on the emperor’s beloved Capri.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top resorts, cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated hotels on their rooms and facilities, location, service, food and drink, and overall value.

When it came to their favorite hotels on the beach, T+L’s sun-seeking readers showed global ambition in 2016. One of this year’s winners is a 19th-century resort on the shores of New England, where guests spend days playing croquet, shuffleboard, and learning the general art of “summering.”

Another is an ultra-modern new build on the southern coast of Australia, where nature lovers can spot kangaroos and penguins. In between, there are resorts that offer endless amounts of wakeboarding, surfing, and lounging.

Read on for this year’s World’s Best beach hotels, just in time for summer.

1. Nihiwatu in Indonesia

T+L readers voted Nihiwatu, on Indonesia’s remote Sumba Island, the World’s Best Hotel this year. For beachgoers, it’s a suitable choice. The resort, a 567-acre estate (over 90 percent of which remains lush tropical forest) has a pristine beach on the warm Indian Ocean. Surfers have flocked here since the 1980s to ride Occy’s Left: a challenging reef break. But Nihiwatu is no longer the sole domain of surfers. Today, well-heeled sunseekers don flip flops and enjoy the resort’s Sumbanese thatched villas, infinity pool, and dreamy white sands.

2. Southern Ocean Lodge in Australia

Animal lovers will be delighted to learn a place called Kangaroo Island exists, and that, true to its name, you can see the famous marsupial there (along with koalas, wallabies, wombats, penguins, cockatoos, and sea lions). Throw in the secluded Southern Ocean Lodge, a super-luxe eco-resort above cliff-lined beaches, and you won’t need another reason for traveling to this island off the coast of Adelaide. Each of the Lodge’s 21 suites has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the rugged coast. Hiking trails on-property lead to several beaches (watch for dolphins) and link up with neighboring preservation land.

3. Montage Kapalua Bay in Hawaii

Like The Brando’s Tetiaora atoll, Maui’s Kapalua Bay also has a history of local royalty deeming it sacred. With picture perfect turquoise waters, palm trees billowing in the Pacific breezes, and a crescent of golden sand flanked by two lava outcroppings, it’s easy to see why. Guests at the Montage have the bay and its beach as their backyard to explore. The resort’s beach crew can arrange for activities like snorkeling, paddle-boarding, kayaking, and fishing. Visit the spa for a more indulgent sea experience, like a seaweed cocoon in an open-air treatment room.

4. The Brando in Tahiti

Tahitian monarchs considered the Tetiaora atoll sacred. When Marlon Brando, while in French Polynesia filming Mutiny on the Bounty, stepped foot on the island in 1960, he agreed, and eventually turned it into his private refuge. Today, the late actor’s retreat has been transformed into the Brando, open to anyone so long as they can afford airfare to Tahiti and a nightly rate that starts at about $2,700. But once visitors arrive at one of the all-inclusive resort’s 35 spacious villas — which start at 1,000 square feet — and touch the island’s unspoiled white sand, the price tag won’t matter anymore.

5. Wequassett Resort and Golf Club

On the outer elbow of Cape Cod, Wequassett Resort is a sprawling compound of whitewashed buildings and clapboard cottages. Woodlands, salt marshes, and manicured gardens make up most of the 27 acre grounds, but T+L readers also love this Massachusetts resort for its beaches. On property, guests can bathe in the quiet waters of Pleasant Bay (or choose from two pools). The hotel can also arrange for exclusive visits to Outer Beach, which is part of Cape Cod National Seashore. Only accessible by boat, it’s one of the East Coast’s most secluded stretches of sand. Head here in the daytime for a picnic lunch, or come at night for stargazing.

6. Weekapaug Inn in Rhode Island

Surrounded by water on three sides, Rhode Island’s Weekapaug Inn is a Cape Cod-style resort with red cedar shingles and cranberry-red shutters. Rooms have distinct textiles and vintage furnishings (many from the original resort, which dates to 1899). Since its 19th-century opening, the main draw has always been the adjacent beach. This two-mile swath of sand is lined with dunes and freckled with wild beach roses. Guests at the Inn spread out across the beach, but not before stopping by the resort’s Bathhouse for a refreshing bottle of ice-cold Del’s lemonade: a Rhode Island favorite.

7. Rosewood Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen

The chirping tropical birds flitting around Rosewood Mayakoba sound just as happy as the guests at this jungly Riviera Maya resort. Most suites come with private docks for the boats that ferry guests around the mangrove lagoons. At the eastern edge of the reserve-like property is a white sand beach and an infinity pool that seems to disappear into the Caribbean. Also at the waterfront: Rosewood Mayakoba’s aptly named Punta Bonita (“Beautiful Point” in Spanish), a seaside restaurant serving regional Mexican cooking tapas-style. Look around the breezy dining room or terrace, and you might spot a celebrity. Jessica Alba is just one of the Hollywood A-listers who frequent the resort year after year.