Even though I’m a working stiff like most people I know, now and again I visit more exotic worlds. Recently we were working with the executive team of a five-star hotel and had the privilege of staying at the hotel. Of course, everything was lovely: the property, the staff, the resources, the rooms…really, everything.

Now, I’ve stayed at very high end (and not-so-high-end) lodgings all over the world, but this recent work got me thinking more carefully about what makes a true five-star experience. I suppose I thoughtlessly assumed it was the kinds of measures used by online aggregators like Hotels.com, Expedia or Orbitz: more amenities or features means more stars.

That’s not what does it, really. The key is not more marble in the bathroom or fluffier towels, uniformed room service or cookies on the pillow. The key is the attention paid to the individual. It comes down to this: a hotel is measured by the importance it communicates to its guests. Here are a couple of illustrations:

My colleague’s preference for Earl Grey tea with milk was known and provided whenever tea was ordered because it was noticed at her first meal. My favorite English breakfast tea likewise arrived without further requests.

When I first arrived at the hotel, after a long drive, I went for a swim. Every day thereafter, an enormous, thirsty pink pool towel was neatly folded on a chair in my room in case I wanted to start my day with a dip.

One evening I went by the popular hotel bar. There were no seats available at the time and the maitre d’ (whom I’d not yet met) approached me, addressed me by name, and offered to call me at my room as soon as a table was free.

Money can buy you access to five star service, but it can’t create it. It has to come from a genuine commitment to the care of others and attention to the very personal and idiosyncratic.  It comes down to something the general manager said: “It’s all about love. Love for your guests and love for your fellow staff.” That’s five-star.

May all your experiences be five-star!


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