Friday, 9 November 2012

What makes a good hotel room?

I travel an awful lot for work and yet again this week I found myself in another hotel room far from home.

Hotels and hotel rooms are intrinsically depressing.  Hundreds of people who don't know each other are crammed into small anonymous rooms and charged the earth for the privilege.

So I got to musing, what makes a good hotel room?

  • The first thing is obviously the bed.  I think that if you're charging someone £/$/€200 plus to rent a bedroom, you should provide more than the cheapest Argos bed.  It also needs to be undamaged.  I've stayed in two places recently where it was obvious that someone very fat had slept in the bed and the mattress had given way.  Thought also needs to be given to getting the proportions right - not too hard, not too soft, not too high, not too low.  The only place I've ever stayed in where the bed was right was a small private hotel in north west London (unfortunately I've forgotten the name).  It was the best nights sleep I've ever had.  That's one hotel in 46 years of hotel staying.

  • The room needs to be clean!  Seriously, I'm astonished this even needs to be mentioned.  Too often there's a ring of dirt and fluff where the carpet meets the wall (Hilton Hotels, I'm looking at you).  Just give the cleaners the correct nozzles and enough time to do it.  Also the room needs to be cleaned every single day without me having to request it and without an additional charge.  I know that this is a contentious point and that some people would prefer not to have their room serviced daily and pay less but that's my take on the matter.

  • Decor.  A stained carpet, scuffed nicotine yellow walls and a water colour of a heron doesn't count as room decoration but it's surprising how often this is the case.  Quirky, unusual furniture and a thoughtful, serene colour on the wall goes a long way to alleviating the anonymity of a hotel room.  I especially love it when each room is different.  Local artwork on the walls is a nice touch and is a good way of supporting the community.

  • Quiet.  I don't want to be woken up by noisy stag parties/couples having a domestic/small children throwing tantrums.  I usually have a very early start the next day and I need my sleep.  It doesn't cost that much to insulate a room against noise and you'll have lots of happy guests who'll leave singing your praises and recommend your hotel to their friends, family and colleagues.

  • Towels.  I do need more than a hand towel and a bath towel.  How's about two bath towels - one for your hair and one for your body?  And if there's more than one person staying in the room, this needs to be taken into account when allocating towels otherwise one of you will be drying themselves with the other's sopping wet towel.  And please, bath sheets, not those glorified hand towels which call themselves bath towels.

  • Toiletries.  Quality, branded toiletries please.  You're charging a lot for the rooms so it would be nice to have body wash that doesn't strip your skin and body lotion that actually moisturises AND smells nice.  Again, if there's more than one person staying in the room, there needs to be more than one set of toiletries.

  • Universal plug sockets.  You're going to have a lot of foreigners staying with you, bringing their foreign tech which will need charging.  More and more hotels are introducing universal sockets but this needs to be across the board.
Image via

  • Free wifi!!  I know the hotel is getting their wifi for free so don't charge me £20 per hour for it.  That's just rude.

  • Reasonably priced mini bars in the rooms.  Seriously, how can anyone justify charging £10 for a 330ml bottle of beer when I can go around the corner and get the same thing for £1?? Charge less and you'll find that more people actually use the mini bar and you'll make more money!  Simples. 

  • Courteous, efficient staff.  I'm not expecting the staff to be overly exuberant and try to be my best friend but I do expect them to be good at their jobs and polite.  I appreciate that working with the public can be challenging at times & stretch your patience but unfortunately it's part of the job and if you feel the need to curt and abrupt with everyone whether or not they've been rude to you, it's time to get another job.

I could go on about breakfasts (generally ok but there have been some shockers) and views (I do realise that not every room can have a glorious sea/mountain/city view but looking at the builders bucket on the scaffolding just outside your window is unacceptable) but for me, these are the most important factors making up a decent hotel.

* *

I'd like to finish by telling you about the worst hotel I have ever stayed in - The Grand in Northampton.

We'd been booked into the hotel by the client because we were working on a job in the countryside close to Northampton.

It was a sign that things weren't good when we couldn't find the place.  The sat nav took us to a rather derelict street.  We drove up and down for a while but no Grand Hotel.  Eventually we had to stop and ask a passerby where it was.  She gave us a strange look and indicated a boarded up building.  We questioned this but she pointed to a sign halfway up the building - 'The Grand'.


The front door was a heavy, locked, steel security door with an intercom.  After we'd buzzed for a while, a male voice answered.  He took our names &  booking details and disappeared.  We waited...  and waited...

Eventually a very pleasant, elderly man let us in, dealt with check in formalities and gave us our keys.  He was so nice that we started to feel a little foolish, I mean, not every hotel is going to be The Ritz.

Ha!  That feeling lasted until we got into the lift.

There was a sign up with some very aggressive instructions

No fighting.  Police will be called immediately.
No naked flames in the rooms.  This will result in immediate barring from the hotel, (what the hell?)
No extra people staying in the rooms.  Only people registered as occupants to stay in the rooms.
No weapons.  Police will be called immediately, (???)

So the hotel wasn't concerned with creating a welcoming, peaceful atmosphere then.

Stepping out of the lift was like walking into another world and it wasn't a good one.  The stench of onions and rancid food was almost overwhelming.  The carpet was stained and frankly rotting in places but most worryingly of all there were a lot of holes in the walls as if someone had punched the plaster board.  I'm not a particularly wimpy person but to be perfectly honest, I was a little nervous.

Walking down the corridor, I could hear what could only be described as sounds of fighting coming from one of the rooms.  As I approached it seemed as if the fight was going to spill out into the corridor so I just ran, heavy bags and all.

Reaching the room, things didn't get any better.  There was a kitchenette on one wall and the room stank of stale cooking odours.  In all fairness, the bed was reasonable and although it was shabby, the place was clean.  What worried me though was a nasty brown stain halfway up one wall and the fact that there were lots & lots of small holes in the walls and in the ceiling where you could see straight into the other rooms!!  I spent about half an hour blocking them up with toilet roll but I couldn't be sure I'd gotten them all. 

Whilst I was busy blocking up the holes, one of my colleagues called me asking what my room was like.  Then another colleague called and another.  It turned out I had one of the best rooms.  We arranged to meet outside the hotel to talk about what we were going to do.

Not one person on that crew was a particularly difficult person but we all agreed that if the client didn't find us another hotel, we would be going home & he'd have to find other people for the job.  When we spoke to the client who was staying in the same hotel as us, he seemed to have the worst room of us all!  In fact he said that there was a stain which could only be blood spatter on one of the walls so he was more than happy to comply.

Later I found out that the 'hotel' was actually a notorious DSS dossers hostel.

I did just read on the internet that Travelodge had bought the building and completely refurbished it.  I'm not normally a fan of anonymous hotel chains but this will be a vast, vast improvement & I think will be an enormous benefit to the town of Northampton.


Rowena Vu said...

Wow. It’s like they’re the poster boy for what not to do for your hotel. Good thing the client himself was with you so he immediately understood what was wrong with the place.

As for the points you’ve raised, I find that the things I think should be top priority are the bed, cleaning, and sound-proofing. I put decor as one of the least priority, since I don’t really stay that much in my room except for sleep and idle time.

Rowena @ Moonlight Bay Hostel

John Park @ The Parkside said...

The make-or-break detail for me is how clean the room is, especially the bed. I don’t really mind if it’s not lavishly decorated, and I usually bring my own toiletries so I don’t mind that either. Great points to ponder, nonetheless.

ashleywilson said...

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