Algorithms that claim they know me better than my husband

Google keeps on asking me to sign in “to discover events and places picked just for “you” and to “get matched with experiences you’ll love”.

Well we all know why they want me to sign in really – which is just to collect my free data and mine more information about me. But the offer is interesting too – while these events and places might just be picked for me will they really be “experiences I’ll love”. My husband of 36 years struggles to be sure of what I’ll like or dislike – well he’s a bit better on what I won’t like – friends and family tell me I’m impossible to buy for – I do sent a lot of gifts to charity shops – but Google’s algorithms seem more sure.

I’m skeptical – Alexa never does what I ask her to – playing random Moscow and New York radio stations but mostly saying “ I don’t know that one”. She’s not able to learn.

So I think we are a long way off machine learning and google really knowing “what I’ll love” – it would be great and it is tempting to think one day a search engine could clear out all of the impossibility stupid suggestions that makes one long for a simpler world with less stuff and choices.

Brands used to have a role in this – but as they become more generic and homogeneous you know that a Four Seasons in one city or resort is unlikely to bear any connection to another and more so when you get to big names like Penisula, Marriott or even Mandarin. The Mandarin Oriental in Miami is as much like the iconic M.O in HK as margarine is to butter.

Some have tired with some success to keep consistency – The Aman group is great but still the Aman is Tokyo cannot be compared to the hotels in Bhutan. Belmond are all different but classic individual hotels. Six Senses are on a building spree and perhaps moving up market but will they loose their USP? Perhaps we’re left with the only consistent hotels being those unique and privately owned properties. The Siam in Bangkok or Hambleton Hall in the U.K.?


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.

Shinkansen magic

Arrived early at the station and saw there was a train an hour earlier than our booked and ticketed train. Can we change the tickets? Is it a long process? Will there be a charge? Will the station staff be unhelpful and bored by the request? If in the UK the answer to ALL the questions above would be yes – if in Japan it’s yes to the first question and no to the rest. 
We asked at the gate and were directed to the ticket office. The member of staff at the door took us to a ticket machine – old tickets in – choose train and seats on new train and out come old tickets and new tickets – all done no fuss, no bother and no charge.
On to the platform and off we go…

Great find – Rusticae Boutique Hotels

On a recent trip to Spain, realised that two of the hotels we had booked were from the Rusticae portfolio. Rusticae selects Boutique Hotels in Spain, Portugal, Morocco,
France, United Kingdom, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Túnez
and in South America, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and USA.

Not many because this is not any, only the best

  • More than 170 hotels in Spain
  • 63 hotels in South America
  • 27 hotels along the Mediterranean sea
  • 15 hotels in european capitals
  • 147 restaurants
  • 34 wineries
  • 22 spas

A great find

The OneandOnly Ocean Club Nassau

The One and Only Ocean club in the Bahamas is probably the best hotel near Nassau or even perhaps the best in the Bahamas. The rooms are great with wonderful views over the ocean – check out the Crescent wing which has a large rooms in colonial style with wooden floors and contemporary furnishings. Great bathrooms large oval baths and Moulton Brown toiletries in good size bottles!!

There are two main dining options and the food is good for what it is.

While the swimming pool is a little small and slightly disappointing the grounds are beautifully manicured and contain the Versailles garden which the previous owner developed in 1940s and 50s.

The staff are friendly and very helpful and there is free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel and rooms.

The beach is narrow but reasonable length and there is help with the sun loungers and drinks and a beach bar was being constructed while we were there. However this is not a private beach so there are people selling clothes etc and various water activities. You are also aware of the noise from people bouncing up and down on banana boats as they get towed in front of the beach as well as the jetskis and the particular smell of their fumes which waft onto the beach.

This hotel is part of the larger Atlantis group and you’re never far away from realising that – the television when you arrive is set to the Atlantis channel and much of the welcome pack has details of activities at the Atlantis hotel and resort.

If you need a stopover in this area the Nassau is fine and the Ocean Club is probably the only place you want to stay – but this really isn’t a vacation place in its own right. Large mass tourist hotels and huge cruise ships mean that the island is very much a port of call rather than a destination desert island in its own right.