It's in the details: Bad food and 2017's best hotels
It's in the details: Bad food and 2017's best hotels
04 DECEMBER 2017 8:45 AM

As we all know, you can play around all you want with rate and upgrades, but it is the small attention of detail that can transform even the dullest box into a palace of wonders. 

Good RevPAR, poor repast
I think the autumn conference season is over. At least it is for me. Maybe there are some others on the calendar, but for my coverage considerations, the end.

Overall, in the United Kingdom and Europe, everything still looks rosy, and most markets are showing continued positive revenue-per-available-room numbers.

Capital remains eager to be placed, and there are more types of capital and debt.

Yes, there are things to keep an eye on, pressures that could become headaches, but let’s say it again, things look pretty good, although I stare at potential grammatical errors all day, not lists of future bookings and real figures on a balance sheet.

At one recent conference I did notice the culinary equivalent of a run-on sentence.

It was a mini steak-and-kidney pie, beautifully presented to the conference lunch crowd in a small bowl.

It was, however, too large to put into a mouth in one bite but also impossible to cut into two or three. The bowl was too small and deep to use a knife to cut it, and how could one anyway standing up? Eventually I managed. It was quite delicious, but does no one think about the impracticalities when attendees are essentially networking in smart suits and dresses?

I wonder if such lack of thinking leads to reduced revenue.

Finger food or dishes that can easily be scooped up with forks. There, that’s that sorted out for all conference hotel chefs.

My favorite hotels of 2017
As my travels for Hotel News Now are over—maybe not, who knows?—I can reflect on the excellent hotels I stayed in over the last 12 months.

I keep a list of every hotel I have ever stayed in, which I am sure are far fewer in number than that of HNN’s readers, but I keep one as I tend to remember their locations and the experiences I’ve had in them, rather than the names of the properties themselves.

These lodgings are memorable for me because of things large or small.

Years ago I edited a quarterly-updated print publication called STAR Service, and the editor-in- chief of that was Steven R. Gordon, a publisher and writer who knew more about hotels than anyone else alive. He’d remember hotel GMs going back five or six turnovers in that role.

In a small “collectors’ edition” STAR Service book of the world’s 100 best hotels, Gordon wrote in the introduction that those hotels were included because they were simply better than the rest.

The hint in that comment was that the best hotels have something inextricably wonderful contained there, often impossible to replicate. They are better because they are better.

My six top hotels of 2017 are listed below in alphabetical order, four of which were on business trips. A warm greeting and access to nature definitely helped make these my top picks:

  1. Fall Creek Falls State Park Inn & Conference Center, Pikeville, Tennessee
    There would be no awards for design or F&B, but a wedding party was going on full steam amid 100 other diners oblivious to it, and everyone was smiling and happy; and the next morning, having a coffee on the balcony of my lakeside room, I saw a water moccasin snake swimming past, which was beautiful and about as close as I want to be to one.
  2. Gauksmýri Lodge, Hunafloi, Iceland: This hotel in northern Iceland has built a birding hide, which can be accessed from a 15-minute walk down a slope and across the road. Anyone who follows me on my mostly hotel-industry related Twitter feed ( linked at the end of this column) will know how happy that would make me feel. It warms me purely because one hotelier went ahead and constructed this.
  3. Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown Nashville, Nashville, Tennessee: I checked in at 8 a.m. and they said, “Well, the room is not ready, but please have breakfast on us, and we’ll show you the best place to set up your computer.”
  4. Liwa Hotel, Liwa, Western Regions, United Arab Emirates: This hotel takes a fair amount of effort to reach—for me on a small bus from Abu Dhabi Bus Station—but the welcome was so genuine I probably would not have noticed if I had been given a wheelbarrow in which to sleep. And spectacular, massive sand dunes surround the property.
  5. Principal Manchester, Manchester, England: If I was a designer—and you might be happy I am not—this is how I would design a hotel. Maybe the original, ornate setting as a grand bank might help and further inspire the designers’ processes, but I love hotels that have so many corners to discover. This is a very cool place in which to kip.
  6. Royal Nadi Resort, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar: An utterly unexpected joy in central Myanmar, with mechanically maintained bicycles free to use, a location by two lakes that screams to you to get on those bikes and head off along obscure trails that might not lead anywhere … but also lead to evergreen memories—and on three consecutive evenings mega-rare, until recently, nationally extinct Sarus cranes majestically floated by on their ways to their roost site at 6:01 p.m., 6:03 p.m. and 6:06 p.m.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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