I’ve never been to one of those hotels that offer a bed-mate for the night, so I can’t vouch specifically for those establishments, but to get me to go back over and over again to a relatively decent hotel isn’t hard. No really, it isn’t. I am a pretty simple bloke and all I want is a good bed, an awesome shower and a chocolate on my pillow.
Over the past two years I’ve spent a third of my nights in hotel beds all over South and Southern Africa. Forget a blog…I could write a book. I have had some strange and interesting experiences. It’s important to note that I’m not a high flying big spender; I’m just the average hotel guest paying a corporate rate.
I don’t utilize hotel spas, but that’s another story. I don’t need the gym facilities, choosing instead to brave the traffic and the odd rabies-infected squirrel on my runs in the great outdoors. I hardly ever order room service, and phone the desk to request things even more infrequently.
In desperation I once phoned the front desk to request a pair of jocks because my packing assistant had let me down again.
When the person who answered the phone suggested that they could look for a pair in lost property I momentarily thought of mentioning my fetish for women’s underwear but quickly stopped myself. Not everybody can find their cheek with their tongue.
I travel with my own cappuccino sachets because the coffee made available in hotel rooms generally tastes like the ‘coffee’ they serve on South African Airways flights.
And a minibar is not a necessity for me unless the chocolate is kept there. A note to all hotels – I prefer my chocolate at room temperature.
So it would seem that I am a pretty easy guest to please, a guest that hundreds of hotels could accommodate. Yet there are few hotels that see me returning by choice time and time again.
The reason is a simple one. I want to be recognized when I return. I want to be remembered. If I have checked in on a previous occasion I don’t want to have to fill in those arduous forms again, and I certainly want the front desk to welcome me back with a big smile.
My two favourites are The Parkwood Guest Lodge in Johannesburg (their job is easier because they are a sixteen room guesthouse) and The Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town.
It’s The Vineyard staff who has urged me to put fingers to the keyboard. The moment I arrive my car keys are whisked out of my hand, my luggage and car are taken care of and I am greeted by name. Yes, by name. “Welcome back Mr Wright, so good to see you.”
I have no doubt that one of the front desk employees is going to do the Fosbury Flop over the counter, run across the foyer, throw their arms around me, and give me a big welcoming kiss. I am sure that the day is imminent, and it’s indicative of the warmth I receive, like a friend returning after a time away.
A while ago I found myself back at The Vineyard after a 5 month gap. Occupancy was high over the Cape Town summer and as such the corporate rates hadn’t applied. From the moment I arrived back I was inundated by the “where have you been?” question.
Upon leaving my room on the second morning of my stay I walked past one of the many housekeepers. “Good morning” I said.
“I knew it was you!” She beamed. “I cleaned the room yesterday and I recognized your things.” “You haven’t been here for ages.”
For a member of staff in a hotel that size to remember me is a feat in itself. To remember what the room looks like when I stay there is another entirely – I choose to believe that it is because I am habitual in making any hotel room feel like my space and not because of the women’s underwear 😉
I am lucky enough to stay at many hotels of a similar calibre so it isn’t that it’s the best hotel (although it is pretty amazing.) I’ve stayed at some that will give The Vineyard a run for its money. It’s the people. It’s the way they make me feel.
I am recognized by the doormen, the housekeepers, the waitrons and barmen. They all smile, they know my name, they engage with me. I get a hug from Denise the maître d of the restaurant every morning. And that is why I will always go back. It feels like a small intimate guesthouse and not a large hotel.
I am aware that a lot of it is who I am. I always try to engage with everybody no matter their station or position in life. Whether I run past a woman walking to work on my run, a fellow guest leaving their room, or my neighbour’s gardener, I will greet and smile. I’m that guy who looks you in the eyes and says hello when we are in a lift together.
But I guess that is why the staff at The Vineyard stand out the way they do, it’s because I am the same with everybody no matter what. And they just give it back so much better than anywhere else I’ve ever been.
I am made to feel important.
If your aim is to be successful at what you do, no matter your line of work, take the time to remember the people who are important to your business and make them feel special.
We all want to be remembered, and you will be loved by your clientele as a result.