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  • Writer's pictureStephan Busch

Hotels - it’s the small things that count most! The anti excellence disease has eaten itself up the

Palaces being build, gorgeous resorts are opened and millions are spend to build the extra “experience”. In a world of declining service the details are often overlooked. These details can make a million dollar lobby look crappy. A deluxe room less deluxe and guest disappointed besides all the money spend.

Greet me with ashtray

It starts with a dirty logo or windows on the outside and my favourite - the golden marble entry with an overflowing ashtray. Welcome.

In one 5* star city hotel the door was opened for me of the expensive rich looking lobby. At the end of the long expensive looking carpet were two security guards standing, arms crossed and looking as if they were deciding to shoot me or not. They didn’t but it somehow took something from the welcome.

Sustainability - mostly done just because it has to be done.

Here a quote from Rafat Ali CEO and founder of Skift, the global travel intelligence company:

“Almost no one cares about sustainable travel, not the majority of the travel industry, and certainly not the travelers. Going green or caring about the environment are ego-boosting mantras taken out at the right moments and soon to be forgotten in the daily scheme of things.”

In a classic wonderful restored deluxe room from the 19thcentury I found this two energy saving light bulbs. The light made not only the room too bright but the whole picture and for sure the elegance were gone. A small overlooked mistake that made a million dollar renovation useless.

Energy saving gone wrong

Throwing towels on the floor instead of hanging them on the hooks if you want them changed is a perfect way to save money for the laundry. Who throws towels on the floor at home? I automatically hang them on the hooks as most people do.

Housekeeping as a choice

Another nonsense sustainability gig. It saves labour for the hotel that’s true but which owner doesn’t want to clean, maintain his assets? Who is checking in an occupied room that the light bulbs are burning and other maintenance is reported and fixed? The housekeeper hopefully or do we want to delegate this to the guest too?

Towel art is also one of the things that might better be avoided in luxury hotels. Nice that the staff has the time to make elephants out of your bathroom towels but – keep it simple! Clean, nice smelling straight towels in the bathroom make more sense and less work.


A deluxe or suite should have the minibar included, nicely filled and maintained. The next picture is from a minibar of a 5* star hotel where I first find the big folder that told me in big letters that I will have to pay for minibar items. I checked and that’s what I found:

Minibar impression from a deluxe room - 5* star hotel

Either do it right or don’t do it. Minibar on demand is an option or just leave a fridge for the guest which can be also used for medicine.

Great display for the spare toilet paper

A very important detail is the contact with the staff. Takes a long time to be trained taken in account all your different guests and the different personalities of your staff. It takes coaching, correcting and advising over a long period of time. Constantly changing staff is a deadly sin and this you unfortunately feel in many hotels.

In one hotel I was staying I knew the General Manager for many years and wanted to be so polite to say hello. I ask at the reception and told them that it is not important but that I would like to see him if possible. The receptionist told me:

“I don’t know if the General manager has time for you.”

I responded:” I also don’t know if he has time – that’s why I ask you” At the end I told the young men not to bother but if guest ask to see the GM it might have to be dealt with differently. Just small things.

Its the nice little details that make the difference

We need to use the stairs again

The reason for all the details being overlooked is simple. Years ago we had General Manager who did not come up with elevator, escalator or other paternoster programs but through the ranks – they used the staircase. Learning the details, understanding hard work and excellence and how difficult it can be to make perfection look easy. Now staff has to be as cheap as possible, supervisors less expensive as before and the anti excellence disease has eaten itself up the ranks. Coaching the most important for great General Managers has been neglected. A short coaching course is a joke. Coaching is a long term process. Everything else is nonsense. Owners didn’t not realize that tremendous investments in hardware are useless if you don’t invest in the software. Invest in the men and women who make magic happen. Give them the means to do so and service will return. Otherwise continue buying marble but don’t complain that it stops shining very fast.

Author: Stephan Busch, Academic Director at the State University for the Humanities Moscow RGGU, Faculty of Tourism & Hospitality earned his Master Certificate in Hospitality Management from Cornell University, USA.

Stephan Busch has an invaluable and diverse experience in launching operations, business development and service training- for hotel and cruise companies in Asia, Europe, Canada and Russia.,

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