WHEN YOU TRAVEL, BIG IS BEAUTIFUL

March 22, 2016
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I like small things, as in small cars, small cockapoos, small books, small portions and small watches (a big shiny Rolex makes me cringe, but its a personal thing).

Yet there is one thing I will never like nor enjoy: a small hotel room.

It’s because I am very fortunate to have a very large master bedroom in my home, with a very large comfortable bed, a nice dressing area, an even nicer sitting area, vast night stands and two nice chests of drawers, for our “stuff”. And we have a roomy “en suite” bathroom. Should we settle for less when we travel? Should we pay $600 or more for a room that barely gives you enough space to empty your suitcase (which you probably will have to hide under the bed so you can walk around). That is if you are fortunate enough to have a closet large (and deep) enough to put your stuff away and hang your suits.

How about the bathroom: those single-vanity/single-sink bathrooms are for the birds, even when you travel alone: hardly enough room to lay out your basic care products, and leave space for your dopp bag. I never fail to forget something in one of those, because I simply do not have unencumbered vision of what’s there.

One of my earliest and fondest memories of living in the US goes back to the fall of 1970 in Saugatuck, Michigan. The place being very seasonal, one could rent rooms off-season by the week at the Holiday Inn, at a very fair price: the rooms were gigantic (to me, anyway) featuring two double beds with a big nightstand in between, and one on the side of each bed. There was a huge vanity on which the TV set sat, yet where you could write or read or do many more things. The closet was large and deep, even though the hangers where the kind you cannot remove. Even if the fake wood paneling was tacky and the flowery carpeting the epitome of bad taste, it was a room in which one enjoyed living. No claustrophobic feeling in that one.

A hotel room is comparable to an airline seat: when you fly, if you wish to have a large, comfortable seat, you have no choice but to pay a premium to fly business or first. Very few business class seats are inadequate, because the airlines perfectly understand that they cannot afford to lose the business flyers: after all, they end up paying for a large number of the people sitting in back. It should be the same thing in luxury hotels: location, location, location? NO. Size matters. A small room should cost substantially less than a large one. And by a large room, I am not merely alluding to square footage (that should be no less than 600 sq. ft.) but also to access, elevation, amenities and service availability. I do not always work on the road, but I expect to have an adequate flat surface to plug in my laptop, and do not wish to break my back attempting to locate an electrical outlet. And I want at least one nice comfortable armchair with a good light if I wish to read.

I am not surprised Airbnb and its cohorts are such a great success: the guest can pick a substantial apartment with a substantial bedroom, bathroom and other amenities, for the price of a… small hotel room. Rather than fearing Airbnb, maybe hotels should get some inspiration from it and start… copying. And to the hospitality geniuses who claim that Airbnb “may become a small competition to economy hotels, they will never be able to compete with luxury hotels”. Well excuuuuuse me, but for the price of a small “suite” in a luxury boutique hotel in the sixth arrondissement, in which one has to contort in order to open the French window to the balcony – the gorgeous “Haussmanian” building across the street provides you with a large one-bedroom apartment, including that great master bedroom and en suite bath, a living room, a dining room and a kitchen to boot. No competition, eh?

It always comes back down to the same thing: value for the money. Guest perception: if I feel I am getting a bargain paying $650 for my room, then the hotel did its job in pricing its “rack”.

What do you go for: the $400 “cramped” room, or the $650 large one? All things being equal, or course.

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