What’s in a welcome?

How does a hotel recognise you?

There are many brand and loyalty schemes but how does a high end hotel recognise you and your stays with them and their competitors?

As small groups get bigger – Belmond, Aman -and some big groups get even larger – Relais and Chateaux, SLH – how do they welcome you and thank you for visiting them (again)? Ownership of hotels is complex and not necessarily connected even with a common brand.

While everyone loves a freebie at this end of the market a complimentary bottle of wine in your room and fruit is standard. Leather luggage tags and tins of biscuits and the nightly gift at the end of your bed is not unusual.

But when you check-in is the general manager available to welcome you and chat about your trip and stays at other properties? Or do you meet a “guest relations“ manager instead? Who processes you and knows nothing about you?

On a recent trip to Bangkok I stayed for the first time at The Siam Hotel, an individual and bespoke hotel clearly loved by its curators and owners. We were welcomed by the general manager. The Aman group of hotels – at least in its smaller properties – is also good at ensuring the general manager is at hand to welcome you, or at least to meet you on your first evening.

Some hotels and their management seem to hide from guests. Recently staying at The Datai in Langkawi it took a couple of days with some complaints before we finally met the general manager. This was a hotel we had stayed at some years before, yet it had no recollection of our first visit.

They say there is nothing as golden as the sound of your own name, and that is equally true in hotels. There may be a whiteboard with passport photographs and the names of all the guests in a staff area to ensure you are recognised, but whatever the tricks of the trade are, being called by your name and being welcomed to the hotel by a senior member of staff far outweighs what most good hotels offer these days.

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