Writer Ross Clarke may not like it, but the jury’s still out on elaborate towel art.

MADE BY MEMBERS • January 2022

What makes a good hotel great?

And what makes a bad hotel just plain bad? We pose these very questions to The Club’s motley crew of travel writers and frequent fliers who, between them, spend more time checking in and out than most.

Want to get in on the action? Tell us your hotel must-haves and perma-hates at theclub@cedarcom.co.uk

Richard MacKichan @richeymack
Writes for: Mr and Mrs Smith
Let’s give it up for hotels with excellent music curation. Not in an ‘Oh they’re playing a song I like’ way, but in a way where playlists are chosen with as much discernment as everything else – those that truly shape the, ahem, vibe. The more Shazams, the better the stay.
Pet peeve: Hotels that fundamentally misjudge their music. Real-life howlers I’ve endured include modal jazz at breakfast (we have hangovers, people), naff EDM during an elegant cocktail hour (I’m being served by a man in a tuxedo, I do not want to put my hands up for Detroit) and mopey folk ballads on a Saturday night. 


Does your hotel soundtrack hit all the right notes?

John O
Ceallaigh @luxury_travel_editor
Writes for: LUTE
Niche, but I’m always impressed when hotel staff spell or say my surname correctly. It’s on all my social-media profiles that it’s pronounced ‘O’Kelly’, meaning I can often tell which hotels have done a cursory search of their incoming guests (an increasing trend so hotels can further personalise the service).
Pet peeve: I struggle with the exchange of inane niceties used as filler at the check-in desk. When asked how the weather was back home or whether I had a nice journey’, I know neither of us really care about the answer. 

Madévi Dailly @madevidailly
Writes for: The Guardian, Monocle, Red
From homemade toiletries to monogrammed pillows, a great hotel elevates the basics. One luxe resort once offered crystal-infused water that I initially scoffed at, but I haven’t had a better drink since. 
Pet peeve: Nothing fuels jet-lag rage like LED lights drilling into your psyche in the dead of night. Don’t make me unplug every kettle, TV and Bluetooth device for a decent night’s sleep.

Nobody wants to see a friend/family member/significant other squatting on the loo while they’re tucking into room service

Adam Turner 
Writes for: The London Economic, Culture Trip, Condé Nast Traveller
I don’t want overattentive fussing. I want a receptionist who knows my name, a waiter who addresses my nut allergy before I do, a bartender who remembers my drink preference. Truly exceptional customer service is a dark art, a subtle thing unique to only the very best hotels.
Pet peeve: See-through bathroom doors. Lets face it, nobody wants to see a friend/family member/significant other squatting on the loo while theyre tucking into room service. Also not loving the growing number of hotels offering marginally cheaper rooms because they dont have windows.

Christian L Wright @clwunlimited
Writes for: The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times
A hotel bar – the excellence of which can be judged not just by the quality of its Corpse Reviver, but by its appeal to both the local who lives down the street and travelling interloper. (I’ll choose Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle. It’s my favourite, and in my hometown!)
Pet peeve: Doors that slam, rooms not ready at appointed check-in time, Wi-Fi that’s not free, and antiquated mini bars – who on this earth is tempted by a $15 canister of Pringles?


How many travel writers does it take to change a lightbulb?

Jamie Lafferty @travel_journo
Writes for: The Sunday Times, Outside, The Financial Times
At the Jaya House River Hotel in Cambodia, a country where it’s close to impossible to maintain dignified levels of body odour and sweat production, they offered free laundry every day. Great hotels are just good hotels that do the little things better and wiser.
Pet peeve: Look, I’m a well-travelled person. If I can’t work out how to turn off a light, that’s absolutely the fault of the hotel. On an incredibly expensive cruise train in Japan, I had to unscrew a lightbulb to sleep. At breakfast, it turned out that three others – all travel writers – had done the same. 

Alicia Miller @alicia.e.miller
Writes for: The Times, The Independent, High Life
I love a late breakfast – until 11am, at least. I’m on holiday. Why should I have to get up at the crack of dawn to get a croissant? Let me stroll into the restaurant at 10:59 and get started on an epic buffet that isn’t cleared until after I leave.
Pet peeve: Thin walls. I don’t get it when hotels spend X million on a refurb, but don’t fork out enough to ensure that I can’t hear my neighbour’s TV or door slams. Without a good night’s sleep, all other luxuries are redundant.

Towels do not need to be fondled into a bizarre animal sculpture and left on my bed. That’s creepy.

Ross Clarke @theguiri
Writes for: BBC Travel, National Geographic Traveller, Mandarin Oriental
I can sleep pretty much anywhere, and I can deal with a hard bed or gaps in the blackout curtains, but what makes a whole world of difference is a good pillow ­– or, better yet, a choice of them. I don’t need a pillow menu, per se, but soft and firm options set a great hotel apart.
Pet peeve: Towels belong in bathrooms. They do not need to be fondled into bizarre animal sculptures and left on my bed. Its inconvenient, annoying and just a little creepy.

Shilpa Ganatra @shilpaganatra
Writes for: The Irish Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph
I love staff who love to help. The kind who walk you to the place you were asking the directions to, not to curry favour with their bosses or for the TripAdvisor review, but just because they’re inherently generous (you can always tell when it’s the former). See also: a master on/off light switch.
Pet peeve: When theres shampoo but no conditioner in the shower. Its like the hotel doesnt believe travel is for women. Antiquated vibes. Bad.

This article has been tagged Opinion, Hotels