I travel often mostly for work hence you could say I’ve become quite the expert on hotels.
First impressions matter and the key here is front desk personnel. It is the few who don’t meet your expectations that are remembered: the man or woman with doesn’t bother to smile or greet upon the arrival of a guest; who greets guests as if greeting a criminal; who look harassed in the presence of guests; who are sloppy in their dress.
Price. Many small town hotels charge occupancy rates as if they were five star big city hotels despite the rat like quality of rooms, amenities, and service. I don’t understand the logic in this. What are the monitors in the hotel industry doing? A PHP1,500/night room in Makati is roomy, clean, stocked with basic amenities, has a bedside lamp, quiet airconditioning, closet with hangers, hot shower whereas a similarly priced room in a small town has ratty bedsheets, dusty windows, noisy airconditioning, rusty shower head, no bedside lamp, no closet, no cloth hangers (when you do ask for a few you’re made to feel like you’re asking for the moon!), tissue paper that is almost as rough as sandpaper, soap that makes you smell like freshly-laundered sheets, door with no double-lock. I remember this room where the toilet/bath is crudely done. There are no hooks or rod to hold your towel and toiletries. The space was just enough for you to make a 360-degree turn. The wall only reached 3/4 to the ceiling. It was the craziest design I came across. But I put up with it because there’s not that many option in small towns.
Service. Most hotels in the small towns don’t have intercom or telephone. It’s practically telling guests that the establishment is a self service hotel if there ever is one. It’s such an inconvenience especially when you’d like to order up coffee or something at night or in the early morning (when you haven’t yet showered). And what if you’re on your own inside and having a medical emergency?
I also noticed that hotels whether in small towns or big cities have limited services for women traveling solo. I’m always on hyper alert whenever a male personnel enters my room to assist me settle in after checking in, for room service, or to check on a malfunctioning equipment. When a male staff is inside my room, I stand by the door (with my phone and ready to make a run if need be) holding it open until he is out. You never know. Then there’s the pool area which is avoided by women traveling solo who prefer a women-only poolside where they could lounge comfortably.
My worst experience as a solo traveler was in this duplex-like hotel. The rooms were new (I could smell the paint) but small-ish and bare of basic comfort. Another of those worthless PHP1,500/night hotel rooms but it was the only decent place close to the office I was visiting. There was the high-end resort but it was four kilometers away. I was more concerned for my security so that was a no-go.
The two women at the front desk which was in an outhouse that doubles as a bakery didn’t know anything about running the place. I asked if they served meals since I couldn’t see a kitchen anywhere. They told me I could just order from the cook over at the other outhouse. They pointed a finger toward an open GI-roofed shack on the far end of the property. Staring at the shack, I nearly lost my appetite. It was already late. The eateries were probably closed. I was famished, having traveled the entire day (Baguio to Cebu). I went to the shack, more like a dirty kitchen, where I found the cook. I also came upon a small group of men (which explained the trucks parked nearby) who were waiting for their meal to be cooked. I wanted to laugh aloud at the craziness of it all. But of course I didn’t. A young woman – the cook’s assistant? – set my plate among the men but I told her to give me a separate table instead. Couldn’t she see? She set it a rough slab of wood – the cook’s table? – on which the cook was cutting up meat and other ingredients, for breakfast probably. I calmly sat down and waited for my food. A TV was switched on thank goodness. The food was served. I took a bite at the eggplant and I could taste the oil was several days’ old. The sinigang broth tasted funny, like the fish wasn’t washed well. I would die if I didn’t eat so I just swallowed everything down. Done I went to my room. Inside, I didn’t know whether to cry or scream or laugh.
Are there no hotel industry standards in this country?