Traveling to Madrid for a speaking engagement, I was accommodated in a hotel that, to me, epitomized some of the key flaws of any property. Sad to say, the experience was probably not what the investors had anticipated following their recent multimillion-euro renovation.
To protect management from scorn, I will keep the name of the hotel anonymous. The property in question ran a popular flag, housing some 200+ rooms. On first inspection, the guestroom was more than adequate – polished wood floors, large LED TV opposite the bed, and a modern side chair with round laminate table. The bathroom was small with a combined bath-shower, all nicely tiled with modern fixtures and ample lighting.
But then I tried to fix the HVAC that only seemed to offer heat upon heat with no off switch to chill the now boiling room. Opening the window only offered temporary relief as the thermostat soon triggered from the breeze, not to mention the accompanying noise from the road below.
Clearly the hotel had HVAC issues to the point of frustration. People are quite sensitive to the temperature of their rooms, and anything outside of this range is instantly uncomforting. Worse still, when I called down to the front desk, they said they would call maintenance but no one ever showed up throughout my two-night stay!
The television turned out to be another peculiar item. They offered over 20 channels plus Netflix, but the two channels that were supposed to be in English were not functioning nor was the aforementioned streaming service. The set had Bluetooth but attempts to link it with my laptop or iPhone were futile despite my tech-savvy capabilities. Another call to the front desk elicited a response that there were indeed some system issues, but that I should be patient as they were all to be fixed ‘in the next few weeks’.
Operating the bathroom ended up being the third strike to the guestrooms. Apart from the smallest towels I have ever seen, there were no bathrobes nor any tissues. One small soap and 30mL containers of shampoo, shower gel and conditioner rounded out the amenities – hardly enough for two people as I was traveling with my wife. She noted the absence of a make up mirror.
With no prospects for rest upstairs, the two of us headed down to the main floor. Here the combined living room concept restaurant, bar and lobby looked welcoming. Settling in to a table on our own as there was no host to assign us seats, we took menus from a shelf nearby then had to summon the waiter who was busy chatting with the barman nearby.
To cap this all off, our departure was hampered by one of two elevators being out for service. We were not dealing with a historic structure, built long before the invention of the vertical lift, but two small elevators for over 200 rooms is simply outrageous. Since we were on one of the lower floors, we elected to carry our bags down the stairs. Upon arriving downstairs, the front desk clerk simply shrugged her shoulders; no apologies given.
Reflecting back on this experience and the accompanying mid-tier nightly rate charged, I can fully empathize with why more and more travelers are looking for alternate forms of accommodations beyond the traditional hotel. With most guests, it is never a single flaw that drives them away; it is always a cluster of complaints along with a failure from the staff to ameliorate those grievances.
The primary role of a hotel is to provide a safe, comfortable night’s rest. While I cannot speak to the property’s security systems, comfort was hardly attainable. The HVAC was on the fritz, the TV was inaccessible for English speakers, the bathroom amenities just plain sucked and more importantly, no one at the hotel seemed to care one iota.
I’m shaking my head at that last point because while the first three undoubtedly require some time to fix, had the staff been warm and attentive to my needs I would not be writing this article. Hospitality is a people industry and this hotel has failed at this core discipline. And to think that the owners invested heavily in the physical plant without fine tuning reflects the ignorance of many in our industry.
We need to be better if we are to survive, and we definitely need to fix all the basic problems before they cause others to write similarly nasty remarks online!