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Time for hotels to wake up

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Getting the basics right is a core mantra in business. So why are so many hotels, many of them welcoming guests for decades, getting so many basics wrong?

Think of key cards. I've lost count of the times mine have malfunctioned, or deactivated on the dot of 12pm, resulting in a long and frustrating traipse back down to reception.

Think of Wi-Fi. Hotels don't charge for heating or lighting. So why, according to a recent survey, do two-thirds of them charge for Wi-Fi?

Why do guests at one five-star Dublin hotel pay up to €25 a day, when guests at another can get online for free?

Or think of breakfast. My hopes have been raised so often by buffets stocked with delicious fruit, fresh juice and all manner of seeds and yogurts, only to be let down two steps later by tureens full of catering sausages, stodgy scrambled eggs and black pudding that could heel a boot.

Worst of all, in my book, is the wear and tear.

Too many Irish hotels undermine genuinely good service with stained carpets, flaking wallpaper, crumbling grouting and stupid scuffs in the corridors.

If public areas aren't maintained, what are we to infer about standards behind the scenes?

On recent trips to two four-star hotels, I've noted cracked pool tiles in one, and a cracked mirror, dust-covered mini-bar and several spots of peeling wallpaper in another.

In a Dublin three-star hotel bedroom I found loose grouting and a split toilet seat.

And that's just the beginning.

Irish hotels have had a difficult recession. I accept that. But so have many of their guests.

When we check in for a night away, we want to check out of the real world, to be pampered in the same rooms that woo us on their websites. If they can be touched-up online, why not in real life?

Poor maintenance is all the more mystifying given that, in this day and age, all it takes is a quick Tweet or Facebook post to share one chipped toilet seat with hundreds of friends.

Occupancy rates in Dublin hotels rose by 6pc in 2011 over the previous year, a recent Deloitte report found. In the same period, average daily rates have risen from €77.43 to €82.12.

But even Georgina Campbell, at her most recent awards, noticed increasingly "patchy" standards.

Yes, the economy is broken. Yes, Ireland has too many hotel rooms. Yes, local authority rates are crippling. But these are no excuse for erratic standards.

An overnight booking is a hard-won prize, and if hotels are going to win it, they've got to get the basics right.

Weekend Magazine