The best surprise is no surprise.
founder of Holiday Inn
Many factors go into the selection of the perfect hotel for each vacation. Most people start with the price point they feel comfortable with; what is the best room that can be had for that price? Others start with a hotel name they have heard about then ask what the optimum price might be for a room at that hotel. Paying $95 a night for a broom closet (complete with smelly mops) is not a bargain, even at the Ritz! There is much more to think about than price.
First, do you want to repeat a predictable experience you have had before? Macon Leary, the change-phobic protagonist of The Accidental Tourist, preferred places which were so much like home he would never feel displaced. Most of us are not THAT set in our ways, but there is a time and place for having a room with no surprises – pleasant or unpleasant. If you are feeling like having a room which is the equivalent of nursery food (I don’t mean that as a put-down) then chain hotels are for you. If you travel a lot for business and can join that hotel’s benefits program, so much the better.
On the other hand, if you are traveling to have a new experience, seeking out unique hotels will pay off nicely. Independent hotels are much more likely to give you a better sense of the place you are visiting. They offer unique architecture and a local atmosphere which the cookie cutter hotels cannot. Often these hotels are older and can reward you with the best beach (because they were there first) or the prime location in the historic city center.
Many analysts might try to tell you which hotels are “the best.” I consult TripAdvisor.com occasionally and find their ranking system unique. Apparently they rank hotels in a city according to customer satisfaction. Sometimes the satisfaction rate for the folks who stayed at the Golden Canary Motel ($75 a night, 6 rooms, no air conditioning) is as high as for the people who lounged in the Posh Palace ($600 a night, 350 rooms, air conditioning and waterslides). Does that mean the two hotels are equal, or that you will have the same experience in both? No. More likely it means that these people all chose the hotel which offered what they wanted, and they were happy with their choice. It is important to read the comments about why each place enjoys those ratings.
Who says a hotel is “the best”? Virtuoso (the consortium I work with) publishes a catalog of their hotel collection, encouragingly titled “Best of the Best.” All hotels in the collection are excellent (and customers who book these hotels through me receive additional complimentary amenities!) But we should not expect that the title means “all the world’s hotels were independently juried for excellence and these are the winners.” There are other excellent hotels which are not members of Virtuoso.
Sometimes you can find a unique hotel which has affiliated itself with a major chain. Hilton now has their Waldorf Astoria Collection (including my favorite, the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix). Marriott has the Autograph Collection, and Starwood has the Luxury Collection. These affiliations give you points, benefits, and the reliability of your preferred chain connection at a unique, often famous property.
The important thing in each hotel decision is to sort out which kind of hotel you are looking for in your travels. It might vary from trip to trip, or even within the same trip. Think seriously about what you are looking for in your accommodation. I will be happy to help you sort out how it should accommodate YOU.
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
15 September 2016