How Hotels Have to Reinterpret the Definition of Luxury

Key gestures cultivated at the Metropole Hanoi

Key gestures cultivated at the Metropole Hanoi

It used to be that the distinguishing amenities of an upscale hotel were all about the thread count in your bedsheets, the depth of your wine cellar and the refined ambiance of your public spaces. Marble-floored lobbies. Dazzling chandeliers. Gilt-edged china. Guests carting Luis Vuitton trunks carried certain expectations, and it was the job of the upscale hotel to meet and exceed those expectations.

Okay, so no one travels with Louis Vuitton trunks anymore, but you understand. I’m not saying these same travelers did not expect superior customer service. That’s always been the case. What I am saying is that the superior hotel, today, must assume new responsibilities for guests.

This has been on my mind a lot lately. Over the summer, I was turning the pages of a National Geographic Traveler feature on Hanoi and there was one of our doormen in full regalia on a whole page of the magazine. The legacy of our hotel promises a certain level of decorum. Guests have always expected something exceptional from the Metropole.

This past week, I was reading a USA Today article about a hotel in Singapore that rushed some forgotten documents and a pressed shirt to a business traveler who was about to board a flight at Changi Airport. These days, that kind of service – that kind of initiative -by hotel staff is setting a new, higher benchmark, separating the hotels that aim to be considered among the very best lodging experiences anywhere, and those that are.

We’re working hard on individual initiative at the Metropole, and cultivating key gestures in our associates. First, there is the assumption of responsibility for certain guest services, and then the implementation of a plan to satisfy a guest need on the spot. Let me be more specific.

When one of our guests answered a routine ‘how do you do?’ from one of our butlers, Mr. Quan, she answered that all was well except that she’d forgotten several essential articles at home. Mr. Quan, without asking whether a search was necessary, sourced these products in Hanoi and got them for her.

When another of our guests encountered a canceled flight at the airport, our valet was working on flight options to ensure a return home with minimal delay. No questions asked. He knew what had to be done. Other guests, in the past month, have lauded our doormen for noting the inflated fares charged by certain taxi companies and correcting that fare while our guests stepped from the cab.

It’s heartening to see just how pervasive this sense of responsibility is among our staff. Over the past year, we’ve won a slew of awards from some very prestigious media outlets whose readers have put our hotel in league with the most storied hotels in Hong Kong and Bangkok. The temptation, as always, is to look at the tremendous changes to our physical appeal for this acclaim, and that bears some of the responsibility. But when I picture Mr. Quan hustling to the pharmacy because a guest doesn’t feel well, I know there are other reasons not quite as visible.

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