Thursday 22 February 2018

Hotels must turn on charm when world pays a visit

Gemma O'Doherty

Leo Varadkar has invited the world to Ireland in 2013. So if you know anyone in a far-flung corner of the globe with a drop of green blood in their veins, he wants you on the phone with an invite to the auld sod for the mightiest Paddyfest ever.

The hotel world is beside itself with the news. The tourism minister's homecoming initiative, billed The Gathering, could generate €220m for our beleaguered coffers. Hoteliers are already cashing in on the spin-off from President Obama and Queen Elizabeth's visits, with internet searches for accommodation in Ireland doubling since they came last spring.

But there's a quid pro quo here. Too many Irish hotels are still cheating their guests with high prices, rude staff, dodgy food, and shabby surroundings. Not good enough, yet so easy to get right.

So before the diaspora lands on our doorstep, here's a few tips for hoteliers to help them get the basics right and make sure the folks abroad are happy when they come back home.

Only put friendly faces in reception. First impressions make all the difference so turn on that native charm in bucket-loads. And take the hassle out of check-in. Most guests have just had a long flight or drive so the last thing they need is to start filling out tedious forms when they arrive.

A good night's sleep shouldn't be an added bonus when you stay in a hotel. King-size beds, proper mattresses and quality linens should come as standard in any self-respecting hotel these days, not to mention silence after dark. Noise was the biggest complaint in a recent guest satisfaction survey in the US. Thankfully, some chains are doing something about it. Crowne Plaza has snore inspectors patrolling the corridors of its hotels nowadays and is installing snore-absorption rooms.

Don't ask your guests to save the world as well as keeping your hotel afloat. Charity begins at home but it shouldn't follow you on holiday. The Hilton chain is asking guests to add ¤1 to their bill to help deprived communities. No one would dispute it's a worthy cause, but hotels are about escaping from the worries of the world for a bit. Your stay shouldn't turn into a guilt trip.

Hotels that still charge for wi-fi deserve to go bust. Stop it now. Ditto parking, pool use, movies and bottled water. Upgrade at every opportunity. Why put a guest in a grotty room when you've a swanky one that's empty up the corridor?

Get breakfast right. Don't serve toast in anything but a toast rack. You don't need a degree in hotel management to know that it gets soggy in a nasty, unhygienic basket. Take pride in your eggs and your juice. And do not fall foul to that sin of culinary sins -- precooking rashers and sausages. No porkies please. We know.

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