For the trained or untrained eye, it was painful to see what so-called 5-star hotels have become over the years; something regular travellers have been rightly whinging about for years.
Most hotels would have to polish their increasingly fading 5 stars very seriously to become real 5 star hotels…
In Europe it seemed largely because properties were old or maintenance was being neglected.
In the Middle East hotels were still new and from an architectural and design point of view generally far superior, but consistently failed to provide the necessary ‘software’ to match the building in terms of desperately poor service. Staff were multi-cultural and very friendly, smiling, but that did not necessarily translate into efficiency.
It is extraordinary how we get side-tracked when we received a great smile during our welcome, then at the next moment reality sets in and you are faced with the incompetence of a housekeeping department that responds like it is doing you a favour to clean your room before 5pm.
I reflected about the front desk employee who gave me his card and asked that I call him at any time if I needed assistance. A nice touch I thought, the only problem was that when I called him later on he was off duty and the next day on his day off and so had not thought to let me know – a failure of the system or the employee?
At my so called 5-star hotel in Dubai, the Sauna was out of order, the tiles falling off at the pool and the pool floor grouting more black than white. There was no power point for the hairdryer in the bathroom which I actually found funny, providing a hair dryer but no power point, so I guess it was not just the service standards that were lacking.
My room cleaning team (an Indian gentlemen and a Filipino Lady) cleaned the room in 5 minutes flat while I was in the room, and the result was half of it wasn’t cleaned at all…Is that a 5-star standard?
It brought me back to my question raised some time ago with several GM’s in the region…When the yearly Hot 100 list or Top 100 are published why do you hardly ever find a Middle East hotel represented, despite the numbers of hotels that include almost every luxury chain?
What really separates the luxury and real 5-star hotels from the rest is the attention to detail and willingness to go the extra mile, beyond the platitudes of a smile and irrelevant questions on check in.
Maybe it is time to look a little deeper and have staff trained in the simple etiquette of interacting with people and applying this efficiency. Where are the qualified trainers with a proper background in all aspects of hotel management and operations rather than just training coordinators sitting in their offices.
Training seemed to be the weakness across the board; the lack of attention to detail was blindingly obvious as staff seemed more interested in just ‘getting through another day’.
Perhaps the training has been left up to people that haven’t been trained properly themselves, which was reflected in the inconsistent standards and execution of duties or does that come from a culture where different standards apply?
Putting people in pretty uniforms and having them smile might work with an airline for a 3-hour flight but certainly doesn’t cut it with a hotel.
On the culinary side and I ordered Room Service in almost every property….
Dubai certainly had the best food, the Chef gets 3 Elite (!) stars for the food in Room Service and at the pool; both quality and presentation was outstanding.
Amman wasn’t bad either with great Arabic food.
My supposed 5-star hotel in Vienna served up a Club Sandwich that was, well, not quite apprentice first year style – this wobbly and poorly constructed sandwich was spread liberally across the plate & arrived with twig like, dark brown, inedible fries…
Of course, don’t get me started about Room service in Paris – (see my earlier article ‘Observations of an Independent Traveller’ for more).
On that note I close my observations on travelling as an independent holiday traveller.
Taking into account all the experiences, good and bad, here is a list of my favourite Cities visited: –
1. Paris – by any measure it must be one of the most beautiful places on earth to visit.
2. Amman – a sentimental favourite with genuine friendly people and good Arabic food.
3. Barcelona – talk about a million tourists per square kilometre and you are in Barcelona.
4. Vienna – finally achieved its status as the Strudel and Dumpling capital of the World.
5. Dubai – a stopover destination from and to Australia and sadly not much more…
About the author
Karl Faux is a veteran Hotelier and Managing Partner with Elite Search – a leading hospitality recruitment firm.
For more information about Karl and Elite Search visit http://www.elitesearch.com.au and The Elite Hotelier http://www.elitehotelier.net