Musing over an article in the FT Weekend (without doubt, the most interesting, relevant and civilized paper around), and a glass of German Riesling (also stimulating in its own way), a thought occurred to me: if one could slough off all the pseudo-scientific sales and marketing mumbo jumbo deposited on us at all-too-frequent intervals and think instead of what constitutes a perfect hotel, what would the answer look like?
Make no mistake: I'm not suggesting another poll - Heaven spare me! - rather a few minutes idle, reflective indulgence. What could be better! Of course there is no "correct answer" - another reason why marketing agencies would never pose the question: whatever emerges will vary according to the standard metrics - location, age, gender, culture and purpose, not to mention a few more personal measures. It will perhaps also be influenced, as is so often the case with personal taste questions, by one's first experiences. Whatever...... it seemed a good way to while away a few more moments, and enjoy another glass.
Would the key factor perhaps be architecture, a rambling country estate or a towering urban colossus? The same type of question could be asked of interior decor, lighting and furnishings. Through the lobby (an informed manager or two here helps to instill confidence in the overall running of the hotel), and on to the bar - for me, the determinant above all others of a perfect hotel: it must be quiet, but not intimate; it must have knowledgeable but not intrusive staff, and most of all it must attract an interesting but again not intrusive clientele: the great joy of the hotel bar lies precisely in the variety and relatively anonymity it offers. At last - earlier for some than others - we arrive at the bedroom the purpose of which most usually be sleeping, washing and working, with in some instances a few other peccadillos thrown in! An inveterate minimalist by nature, I favour sparse, subtle furnishings - and, above all, bathrooms that are private and not, as is the case with at least one European Marriott label, spatially and visually a part of the main room.
Sadly, for I am approaching the upper age deciles, my perfect hotel is either a threatened species or already extinct. For me, today's hotel is too often re-engineered mutation, where "guest experience" has become a marketing tool that agencies use to lure hotel chains that apparently seem to have lost sight (or sound) of the business they are in.
As the article to which I referred earlier observed, being harassed by e-mail with trite, meaningless, surveys minutes after leaving is surely one of the more annoying characteristics of the modern hotel industry. "Truly good managers know if there is a problem and seasoned guests make themselves heard - you don't need e-mail reminders to find out 'how you're doing'."
Enough.....................relief is at hand: Despite all the irritable, testy ramblings above, there is for me in today's Marriott world, one hotel that approximates "perfection". It is neither the most expensive, nor the most garishly spectacular, but it simply operates, listens, watches and learns with
an unobtrusive professionalism that guarantees (as far as is possible) continuity of service, enjoyment and an imaginative response to an ever-changing world. It is in Berlin, Germany.
Goodbye and good luck