Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Observations on the luxury hotel industry.
“Luxury” hotels are multiplying in the US and around the world at a fantastic rate, both new-builds and upgrades of existing properties.
In New York City, for example, 3- and 4- star properties are upgraded to 5-star status or some - whose corporate owners or managers suffer from delusions of grandeur – are called 5-ster properties when a perfunctory coat of paint and new furnishings are installed. In Asia, especially Bangkok and Singapore, the overbuilding of the ‘80s and ‘90s and the economic downturn of COVID have left luxury and super-luxury hotels with 45-60% occupancy rates. Africa and Europe are feverishly upgrading “grande dame” hotels and new companies and brands are daily entering the luxury hotel arena.
There are problems with the US hotel staffs that, no matter how much the managers and front line supervisors are trying to correct still plague the industry as a whole and a major one is a lack of professionalism. In Europe, hotel staff positions are handed down from father to son (or daughter, nowadays) as part of a family tradition. In Asia, the cultural tradition of hospitality makes hotel staff extremely attentive and willing to provide the level of service guests in luxury establishments require and pay for.
In the US attention to detail by much of the lower level staff is lacking. In many cases, the position the employee is working in, is considered by them as a temporary one until something better comes along. A number of emigrants are employed who do not speak English well or, worse, are being told that they do not need to learn proper English; however this is a minority… the vast majority of emigrants are hard working and many times working harder than American-born individuals at the same socio-economic level. In general, in the US service positions are considered undesirable and beneath the status that certain persons would like to think they have. And the employee unions are making it extremely difficult to terminate individuals with “bad attitude” problems.
Illogical pricing has become another major problem.
Because of the perceived “superiority” by their owners and managers, many hotels that are rebranded as “luxury properties” are raising their prices to unimaginable up to now heights. Talking about delusions of grandeur… We just visited a rebranded inn which is charging for a room of average size with minimal amenities as much or a little more than a “grand dame” true luxury European hotel does. In the room, there was no mini fridge, no coffee or tea maker but it had a giant TV set mounted on one of the walls and an umbrella in the closet. Yes the linen, towels and bathrobes were of very high quality; and yes, there was an excellent restaurant on premises. But the overall building was still an old New Jersey inn and the corridors and rooms smelled to high heaven of bacon in the morning. Definitely not worth the amount they charged.
Proliferating on-line reservation systems have almost completely displaced in the US professional travel agents that knew intimately the properties they were proposing to travelers. And many of the “revues” one sees in some of these online marketplaces are very evidently paid-for puff pieces, where the reviewers never set foot in the properties they write about and they are just rehashing PR releases generated by promotion agencies. I know… I get sent the same releases and I can detect the duplication of phraseology used by these self-styled “influencers”.
That is one of the reasons why the hotel and restaurant articles in this magazine are written by luxury hotel industry veterans and professional travel writers with vast experience in the industry, only after we actually stay and we actually inspect and experience the properties we write about.
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