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Understanding "Boutique Hotels" #3 Our Favorite Hotel? A series by Harry Nobles

publication date: Sep 27, 2010
author/source: Harry Nobles & Cheryl Thompson Griggs
What is our favorite hotel?

We hear this question frequently.  We hear it from clients, from colleagues, and from guests.  We are always pleased to be asked for several reasons.  First, it gives us the opportunity to reminisce and remember enjoyable experiences; it also causes us to reflect on the things that make a hotel memorable.  It is also a chance to share our thoughts with others, something we very much enjoy.

During  my AAA tenure and our many years of travel, jointly and individually, for business and pleasure, we have seen a lot of hotels.  We have visited, inspected, and rated hotels of all types and all sizes throughout the U.S. and in several foreign countries.  We will try to reach a decision with a stroll down memory lane. 

1.      There is the wonderful small inn in Japan, situated on a cliff overlooking the river far below.  Beautiful, intimate, with a pastoral setting and an excellent staff. 

2.      Another small inn in Thailand merits a mention.  Its secluded hilltop location with a view of the Andaman Sea to the west and the Gulf of Thailand to the east, and luxurious natural landscaping all evoke very pleasant memories.  A simple, wood-dominated decor in the six rooms enhances the  sense of peaceful isolation.

3.      A plush resort on the tip of a sun drenched peninsular in Mexico with a panoramic view of both the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez ranks very high on our list.  At the other end of the spectrum is a large resort in the Canadian Rockies that offers a breathtaking view of remote mountain splendor.

4.      Also on the "favorite" list is a sprawling hotel complex in the heart of Bangkok.  Surrounded by spacious grounds, lush tropical landscaping, and temple-like towers, one is mentally transported to a jungle environment.

5.      We must not omit the classic hotels and resorts that abound all over the U.S.  

6.      These include the large urban properties ranging from the historic to the ultra modern and world-class ski and beach resorts with extensive recreation facilities. 

7.      We have also visited many excellent smaller country inns and B&B's, historic and modern, and some merit inclusion on our list. 

8.      Some are famous while others are obscure; some are luxurious and some are elegantly simple. 

9.      Despite the very wide variety of locations, types, sizes, and styles of hotels we considered in the quest for our favorite, there is one common denominator: people.  Every hotel on our favorite list is characterized by a very special atmosphere or ambience.  Ambience is not created by location, architecture, or any other physical attribute.  Although physical things can add to the effect, people alone create ambience.

10.  One of our favorite places, albeit an unlikely example,  is an 8-room roadside motel in West Texas.  This ultimate "mom and pop" operation has large but simply furnished rooms, a gravel parking lot, and registration in the owner's living room The 8 rooms are spotlessly and personally cleaned every day by the owners; there are no employees. 

There are no phones in the rooms.  Each  guest is asked two questions at check in:  "What time do you want to wake up, and how do you like your coffee".  Your wake-up call is the owner knocking at your door with hot coffee.  When I asked the owners why only 8 rooms, the told me they built only as many as they were sure they could personally handle at their standard of  housekeeping, maintenance, and service.  They have succeeded in creating a very special place and are firmly positioned on our list. 

So, what is our favorite hotel?  The jury is still out on that but you can be sure the final winner will be an immaculate facility run by genuinely hospitable people providing impeccable personalized service surrounded by breathtaking natural vistas, and giving guests everything they need for a truly special experience.

 Harry Nobles & Cheryl Thompson Griggs,  March 2003

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