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How travel writers select hotels: the criteria we use, part 2

So, what are some of the other things travel writers are looking for when we’re judging a hotel? If you’ve just joined me, read part 1 here.

The bathroom: is it clean and spacious with lots of light? Is there a rain shower or shower with good water pressure? Does the shower stay up and not fall down and hit you on the head? Does the water get really hot? Does the shower not flood the bathroom? Can you sit on the toilet without having to tuck your needs under the sink? Are there big fluffy towels and hand towels? High quality toiletries? A high-speed hairdryer?

The hotel: whether it’s a luxury property or budget hotel, does it have character, personality and atmosphere? Does it have a sense of style? And what about attention to detail? Are there signs in the lift and is the signage discrete? Are there fresh flowers? A bowl (not a vase) of fruit? Newspapers and magazines, or even better a lounge with library? Wi-fi in the public spaces? If it’s a luxury property, there should be a decent-sized swimming pool with lots of sun beds. There should be a good cafe with staff who know their coffees, and a buzzy bar with a bartender who knows how to mix a cocktail (our usual test is whether he can make a martini). There should be a fine quality restaurant where locals like to eat. Breakfast should be freshly made, no cereal in packets and no cold scrambled eggs – if it’s a budget place, keep it simple and just give us espresso coffee and fresh hot pastries, if it’s a luxury hotel then we still expect espresso coffee (no percolated ‘American coffee’ in a pot), a hot cooked breakfast as well as local breakfast options on the menu.

The staff: Do they smile? Are they welcoming, warm and friendly? Do they ask how you are? Do they offer to help with your luggage and shopping? And do they back off when you don’t need assistance? Are they intuitive, attentive, accommodating, and have a ‘can do’, ‘anything, anywhere, anytime’ attitude? Does the concierge know the town like nobody else and can organize anything for you? Do they break the rules and go beyond the call of duty if they have to? As Mr and Mrs Smith asked in a recent post on what makes a boutique hotel: would they fix me a bite to eat if I arrived after hours? (Disappointingly, we recently found that one much-written-about five star luxury hotel on the Italian Riviera wouldn’t!)

Check-out: Is it fast and efficient? Do they manage to print up a correct bill without too much fuss? Do they ask you how your stay was? Do they seem like they actually cared? Is a taxi waiting or is the car ready with your luggage already in it? Is their goodbye as warm as their welcome so you leave thinking this is a hotel you could happily head back to?

So, have I left anything out? What do you expect from a hotel? And what factors are important to you when you size up a hotel, whether you’re a travel writer or just a regular traveller?

2 comments

  1. Simon Forrester

    Hi Laura, This has been so useful. I have just been wrestling with drafting criteria for our reviewers and found this really helpful. The only thing that maybe missing for me is the location, the sense of place and possibly a view. I can forgo so much when my eyes and tired soul are rewarded with either a great vista from the hotel or a buzzy vibe which comes from a location in the heart of a vibrant quarter with great local cafes, colour and life. Thanks for all that you do.. best Simon

    1. Lara Dunston

      Hi Simon – so glad it was helpful. I totally agree with you. I wrote that post around 3.5 years ago, and I’ve probably stayed in and inspected close to a thousand hotels since, and written 100s more hotel reviews, so it’s definitely time for a revision. I completely agree that the location/sense of place, atmosphere/vibe and views are important, and for many people a great view is the most important thing. Thanks for dropping by! Really appreciated.

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