Tuesday, June 26, 2007
The five-star treatment
I'm not fussy. Nor am I particularly demanding. But when it comes to where I rest my head when I'm not at home, there are certain basics that I need before I can rest comfortably.

Hotels are a regular part of my living experience as my job takes me to various parts of the world. There are some hotels that make you feel so comfortable that you really don't want to leave. I had that experience while I was in India earlier this year. I spent two weeks in one hotel in New Delhi and it was fabulous. I've also had the opportunity to experience a so-called boutique hotel in Geneva, which was exquisite. Right on Lake Geneva, the welcome we got was warm and while the room was ultra-modern with dark, sleek furniture, I felt very comfortable.

Then there are the Bed and Breakfasts. I actually really enjoy them. For me, they are the closest to feeling at home. There was one that I stayed at while working in the Orkney Islands in Scotland. It was attached to a local pub. It was very basic but very clean and they had their own little touches that made it comfortable, like homemade cookies that were placed in the room for the guests so that after a long day we could relax with a nice cup of tea and cookies. I love that!

So for me, it's not about the bells and whistles, like designer taps and sheets and a butler on standby. For me, it's about attention to the details of cleanliness, simplicity, and a feeling of being comfortable enough to relax because even though it isn't your home, it shouldn't feel like a museum or on the other side of that, a backpackers' hostel (no offense to the backpackers out there).

It is difficult to please everyone. Legendary hotelier Sol Kerzner's motto is to "blow away the customer." For him, it's worth the expense to have fresh flowers in his hotels everyday along with the latest high tech gadgetry. Even with massive projects like the multi-thousand room Atlantis resort casino in the Bahamas with rates ranging from $500 to $5000 a night, it comes down to individual taste, purpose of your visit, and how you want to feel. But when you really look at it, it really comes down to one thing: comfort. There are those who are comfortable with all the excess that money can buy and those that are happy with simplicity.

Arrigo Cipriani of Harry's Bar and Cipriani restaurants told me that there is a difference between service and taking care of your customer. He believes that taking care of the customer without imposing on them is key to a successful business. He should know. His father, Giuseppe Cipriani believed that service is the most important value in one's life. Arrigo Cipriani told me that when his father still owned Hotel Cipriani in Venice what set them apart was the feeling his guests would have when they stayed there. Giuseppe Sr. told his son that when guests closed their eyes, they still could feel the room, the sheets, the mattress, and it was that feeling that stayed with them. It was he who began the Cipriani empire with the tiny 33 square meter Harry's Bar in Venice. Today there are more than a dozen restaurants globally. Giuseppe's grandson (who shares his name) is taking the family back into the hospitality arena by launching luxury-serviced apartments in New York and Miami. They are not cheap (up to $3 million for an apartment) but again, the Ciprianis say what you're paying for isn't just the bricks or the bed you lie in, it's about that feeling of being looked after.

There are many in hospitality that will say that the core of their business is service. And while that sounds elementary, not everyone has perfected it. For me, service isn't about constant attention to me; it's about the attention to the details whether I'm at a 5 star hotel or at a little B&B in a small coastal town. For me, the mark of a truly great stay is just knowing that those that own and work at these places care for and take care of their establishment. That is a true measure of how much they will care for and take care of me.

Am I asking for too much?
Posted By Monita: Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Hi Monita,

Let me first tell you that I really love your show, and that each month, I am looking forward to a new edition of 'Art of Life'.

Myself, I need to travel frequently for business, and I do agree with your statement living in hotels.

When you are often in a foreign country or town, to my opinion, it is great to have some square meters of comfort and luxury in an hotel, that can be seen as a substitute of home.

Nothing is nicer, after a long day of meetings, and often a late dinner, to get back to your hotel, and find some comfort, as well as some certitudes of life (e.g. lik e having a TV with CNN and a comfortable bed).

And no, this doesn't mean you need each time a five-star treatment, but some basics are mandatory: a clean room, a nice service, and from time to time, an honest good morning or a smile of someone of the staff.

So no, you are not asking too much !

Anyhow, keep up the good work, and I am looking forward to the next edition of your show.

Kind regards,

Peter (Brussels, Belgium)
Posted By Blogger Peter : 7:40 PM, June 27, 2007
Hi Monita,
I totally agree that the feeling of being 'taken care of' during a stay in any hotel is what service is all about. If this feeling is hard to come by, then however luxurious the stay might be, it's not worth the money that one spends.
Luxury cave dwelling reminded me of Rajasthan, India where most of the palaces are being converted into luxury hotels. On the whole this month's 'Art of Life' was simply luxurious and high-end in every sense of the word.
Posted by: SriVidya K, Toronto, Canada
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 9:28 PM, July 07, 2007
Hi Monita.No you ain't expecting too much.Every customer deserves excellent service.I have been to some hotels here in Nigeria and felt like staying there forever and there are some that just depress me.I wish every hotelier could read your article cos it would go a long way to save their business.
Posted By Anonymous JydaGirl,Lagos,Nigeria : 10:37 AM, July 26, 2007
Well, I am fussy and demanding. But never rude or obnoxious, which I think is very important. Yes, I usually pay a lot of money to be taken care of but these are human beings who are employed to deal with me and that isn't always easy to do. There are times when I take my own issues, moods, whatnot into the workplace and I usually get cut a break. It's just really important for me to let a hotel know up front my expectations, I've rarely been let down. But I'll name names here...the Grand Wailea in Maui, not good. There. One of my best vacations has been to the Gunflint Lodge in Grand Marais, Minnesota, hardly a 5 star location. Just goes to show, you never know, great service can be found in unexpected places!

alc from LA, CA
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 9:49 PM, August 07, 2007
CNN anchor Monita Rajpal blogs about her experiences filming the "Art of Life" show.

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