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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

On the move: when hotel ‘guests’ are anything but

This week we’re going to look at things from the other side of the reception desk. What does being a hotelier tell us about human nature? Unfortunately, the short answer is that we are slobs

Industry insiders, including hotel managers, say they are amazed how quickly guests can turn a room upside down. Getty Images
Industry insiders, including hotel managers, say they are amazed how quickly guests can turn a room upside down. Getty Images

Last week I wrote about my top hotel hates, which chimed with many other regular guests. For them, like me, the excitement of staying in hotels has long worn off, and attention inevitably turns to niggles such as on-off air-con, limp pillows, poor lighting, noise and difficult shower controls – all regular complaints in an industry which is supposed, more than any other, to cater to people’s needs. More than ever nowadays, the challenge many hotels face is how to recreate the comforts of home. When you live in the comfort of the UAE, it’s not hard to find hotels that are sub-standard.

This week though, we’re going to look at things from the other side of the reception desk. What does being a hotelier tell us about human nature? Unfortunately, the short answer is that we are slobs.

Industry insiders, including hotel managers, have told me they are amazed how quickly guests can turn a room upside down. While towels on the floor, stains on sheets and underwear hanging from light fittings is de rigueur, one hotelier reserved their worst criticism for a female sports team, which, almost inexplicably, checked out leaving dirty items on the bathroom floor rather than in the bin, the toilets unflushed and furniture broken.

At another property, an unclothed man had to be “rescued” from the corridor after being kicked out by his companion in the middle of the night. The woman refused to open her door while the man demanded to be let back in. On a similar note, a hotel manager in India told me that “one of his worst guests” included a Japanese businessman who, when the hotel refused to write off some charges that he disputed, calmly stripped off and sat on the reception counter.

Of course what’s most important in all of these situations is how the hotel deals with the problem and minimises the impact on other guests. A high degree of emotional intelligence combined with professional detachment and a warmth of spirit – let’s call it “people skills” – really comes into play here. Often, it’s about defusing a situation without anyone losing face, but above all it’s about responding appropriately.

In the beautifully ornate lounge of a luxury hotel in Cambodia recently, I was chatting with the hotel manager when a rowdy businessman started shouting. He used the sudden brief power cut that followed to escalate his ramblings, which culminated in him smashing a glass angrily on the floor. While the manager could have called the police, he realised the guest was drunk and looking for attention and so mollified him by sitting down and engaging in conversation. Shortly afterwards, the man politely went to bed and that was the end of the matter.

At a motel in the United States last year however, I was disturbed as soon as I went to bed by the sound of partying next door. Some men had invited what sounded like 10 of their friends to join them in a mini-frat party. Before I even had time to complain, there was a sharp knock at their door. “The rules state no guests. All of you, out.” The manager knew he had to nip this in the bud, and he knew exactly what language to use.

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