Virtuoso Life May 2018 Why We Love: Great Hotel Welcomes

Why We Love: Great Hotel Welcomes

Three people who know hospitality discuss welcoming hotels. 
Olga Polizzi
Olga Polizzi

Olga Polizzi -- Deputy Chairman and director of design, Rocco Forte Hotels

It’s really the basics that you’ve got to get right to begin with. You can design the same space 150 different ways, and they can be good or absolutely ghastly. If you get the architectural space right – the heights, the doors, the enfilade – then already you feel comfortable. However much you put in pretty curtains and sofas, if the space is badly planned, it’s never going to feel comfortable.

Downstairs can be quite creative. It’s always nice to bring a smile to people’s lips. But upstairs has to look and feel very, very clean. It mustn’t feel like you’ve had 150 people in before. Then you have to get the obvious things right. Simple lighting that anyone can understand: I was in a hotel the other day in Milan, and I just could not turn off the lighting at night. I pushed every button, did everything. That’s really annoying.

I like leaving areas free. Everyone fills every single surface in a hotel room with pamphlets, leaflets, notices. I always just tidy them up in a pile and put them to the side, so you’ve got somewhere to put your own stuff. Hotels are always trying to advertise something that’s downstairs. I think if people want to go out and have dinner in the city, they’re not going to be tempted by a pamphlet telling them about your restaurant. Another thing that hotels never do right is fruit. They have a bowl of hard, uneatable fruit. It looks nice, but I’d rather have a bowl of one thing – cherries or strawberries or tangerines – something you can eat easily.

Local art immediately gives you the feeling of the city you’re in. It’s amazing how different the art is from Munich to Berlin or even from Berlin to Florence. Music I’m not so keen on all the time. I think people are frightened of quiet. Actually, it’s rather nice to sit quietly now and again and not have Muzak blasted at you.

I’ve still to find the perfect hotel! I think that the de Russie in Rome is very good. I think Brown’s in London at its best is very good. My brother [Rocco Forte] really majors in service. We try not to have anyone at our hotels who’s not really charming.


Ed Mady
Ed Mady

Ed Mady -- Regional Director, West Coast U.S.A., the Dorchester Collection, and general manager of The Beverly Hills Hotel

It’s always going to be about the arrival experience. When you drive up the driveway here, you see that huge Beverly Hills Hotel sign that was installed in the forties, the green-and-white-striped awning. The red carpet for our hotel is really the warm welcome. Whether it be there or at another property, I always look for how people make you feel when you walk in.

Service sets the entire mood and the tone. When it gets down to poor service, it’s never, ever about the mistake – it’s about the recovery. People are forgiving. If you’re at a restaurant and somebody spills a glass of red wine on the table, it’s really about what they do to try to make it right. As long as there’s a genuine embrace of “Wow, I’m really, really sorry.”

There’s a tremendous amount of warmth and authenticity at The Beverly Hills Hotel. The Pink Palace is the first historic landmark in Beverly Hills – the city of Beverly Hills was named after the hotel. The Polo Lounge turned 78 last year. It’s one of those rooms that is so magnetic. You can plop down, enjoy it, and do your people-watching. Table number three was Frank Sinatra’s table; table number six was Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe’s favorite table. People sit there and they kind of fall in love with the room.

Luxury can be like a dog chasing its tail in today’s world. Technology has changed how we interact with guests a tremendous amount. But there’s not a device out there that will ever replace human interactions. There’s no expiration date on relationships if you continue to invest and deposit trust in them.

Alice Marshall
Alice Marshall

Alice Marshall -- Owner, Alica Marshall Public Relations, an agency specializing in luxury travel and goods

I’d never really been in a hotel as a young woman. It’s not something I grew up with. We were a modest, middle-class family. My first real job was with Cunard Line, and my first experience with hotels was with The Ritz in London, which was a Cunard hotel at that time. I truly thought I had died and gone to heaven. The GM was this very distinguished gentleman who had worked for the king of Jordan. There was this kind of make-believe world that I felt like I was entering.

The Mansion on Turtle Creek had a real impact on me, maybe 30 years ago. What they were doing at that time was so out of the box. They were doing the gardens and having their own products. They were the first to use a local chef, who was doing amazing things in the kitchen. It was super-luxury, but super “of” that place.

I still love the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Every book is in the right place; the hangers are perfect. That’s what’s fun about hotels. For that one moment, everything is perfect.

In the old days there was this housekeeper at The Beverly Hills Hotel who would make maps of how guests left their rooms. They would literally have Polaroid photos of how things were laid out so that person would return time after time and have things in a predictable, comforting way. Sometimes that familiarity gives people comfort in a time that’s unpredictable, like when they’re traveling.

Hotels are becoming almost extensions of living rooms. It’s a trend that started with the more millennial-focused hotels – the Aces, the NoMads – and now some of the more traditional hotels are doing it. It gives a really nice local feeling, that people from the neighborhood are using the hotel. I was recently at The Lowell in NYC, having a drink in their beautiful new club area. It’s stunning. Partly it’s having this beautiful fireplace, but it’s also the owers, the lighting. They’ve just hit that note perfectly, and with great, comfortable chairs and the right music.

Why are hotels so cool? You are, for that second, whoever you want to be, whether that’s a character from Downton Abbey walking in in your best clothes, or you’re just sneaking up to your room and snuggling up with a book. Whether it’s getting an aspirin if you have a headache or someone offering you a tea if you come off the plane looking tired, that feeling of being taken care of is what’s ultimately appealing on a very basic level.

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