‘We arrived late afternoon and carried our bags to Reception, which is in a room just behind the entrance hall. We could hear a young man chatting on the phone, so we poked around for a bit, made some noise and put our heads around the door. That did not do the trick so we finally went up to the desk so he could see us! He seemed surprised and asked what we wanted - we said we would like to check in, and he looked at his computer for a couple of minutes, repeated our name and said "good, super, that's cool"! He took one of our bags and showed us up to the second floor -room 9. "Have you come far?" he asked. "No not really" we replied. "Cool" he said. We began to think we were in an episode of W1A’
This extract from an report by two Good Hotel Guide inspectors demonstrates how not to greet arriving guests. Of course, as is the Guide’s rule they did not announce that they were inspecting for us. What a different welcome they would have been given has they done so.
Not long ago, visiting hotel in Cambridgeshire, a senior inspector no longer in her first youth staggered in to Reception with a heavy case. The young receptionist took her details and nodded towards a steep staircase. ‘Room 31, up there’, she announced, making no offer of help with luggage. This, combined with the fact that the inspector, being a singleton, later found herself sitting at the nearest dinner table to the loos, resulted in the hotel being demoted to the Guide’s Shortlist until better reports came from our readers.
Travel journalists on their freebie get an attentive welcome, a best room and a lavish meal. The Guide’s editors and inspectors ask no favours and often get none. The inspectors are asked to go for a middle-range room, a moderately priced dinner menu and bottle of wine. We refund their overnight costs but they pay their own travel costs. We could not be more grateful for this generosity. They often travel as a pair, making them less obvious to hoteliers than the lone inspector with notebook.
We recently booked (under an assumed name) at a smart new seaside hotel following a rave newspaper review. Did we get the sea view room and the fabulous dinner? No. Our rear-facing room overlooked the 6am rubbish collection and the car park, and our dinner was in a room so noisy with muzak and chat (the usual hard floor and lack of drapes) as to be unbearable though the food was good.
But not all hotels are like that. In the best (not necessarily the priciest) ones we have been welcomed as we stepped out of our car, cases carried, an offer of free tea and an explanation of the facilities. Best of all, we occasionally get an upgrade at a quiet time. This is most likely not in corporately owned places but at the owner-managed places in which the Good Hotel Guide specialises.