Whether a hotel or a private residence, the guest experience is paramount with the initial ‘welcome’ being the start of what should be a memorable journey. When I have friends to stay, I try and adopt the very best of good hospitality into my own home – whether it is a personalised mini-bar in the guest room, personalised music in the audio system or a personalised vase of flowers the guest particularly loves. I’ve picked up the tips below from the very best hoteliers around the world, where their approach to VIP guest attention puts them strides ahead of the competition. Here are a few ideas that can turn you into the perfect host or hostess in your own home – some are obvious, some are not:
A warm and friendly greeting from the host or hostess on arrival – drinks or coffee/tea served; a handwritten welcome card (with name spelled correctly… this is CRUCIAL) and a small plate of macarons or other sweets placed in the guest’s bedroom; a luxurious scented candle in your signature scent – be it tuberose (as with me), or jasmine, or mandarin and basil, plus a box of matches; pillowslips or slippers embroidered with the initials of the guest – this is very inexpensive gesture that always impresses – the guest can take the pillowslip home with them as a memento at the end of their visit; a quality newspaper slipped under their door early each morning; a selection of current lifestyle editorials next to an easy chair in their room; a washing basket or bag for worn clothes; a bedside clock with alarm; a deep pile bathrobe; scented mini-soaps in individual packaging; a good hairdryer; a full length mirror; a mini bar containing an eye mask, ear plugs, coconut water, mineral water, chocolate chip cookies, chilled glassware, chocolate, jelly beans, crisps/chips, fresh fruit; a wall safe for their jewellery; coffee/tea making facilities; a pair of binoculars, if you’re on the coast; an informal printed agenda of what’s planned over the course of their week/weekend stay with you i.e. tennis, water skiing, lunch or dinner at a special restaurant – this gives your guest the opportunity to figure out their wardrobe, what to wear and when; a list of local numbers they may need while staying with you ie florist, car service, dry cleaner; impromptu treats delivered to their room when they are just back from a shopping trip/swimming/tennis or other outing… and an album of printed photographs of their stay with you to take home after their visit. This care and attention will touch the hearts of everyone who stays with you, no matter how well-travelled they are, or aren’t.
All of this may seem like a huge amount of effort, however many of these gestures only have to be set up once then refilled before the visit of the next guest. It helps if you have house staff to deal with laundry, if not then make sure the guest knows they can use the laundry room to wash and press their clothes before packing to leave at the end of their visit.
During their stay with you, make an effort to ensure your guests feel included i.e. don’t abandon them while you take off with other guests or allow them to feel left out in any way. As host, never intrude upon the privacy of your guest – while they are staying in your home, the space you offer them is ‘theirs’. (You can put a huge amount of effort into generously entertaining your guest then undo all the good work through your own unconscious ‘lord/lady of the manor’ demeanour). Remember your guest is playing a part in the visit, just as you are as host. It should be a memorable time between friends, with all parties contributing to a shared experience that is remembered with fondness over the years and reciprocated in times to come. That is how the very best hoteliers climb to the top and remain – by ensuring their guests feel like VIP’s in their very own ‘home away from home’.
*When writing this piece, I was referencing the following individuals and groups, all of them renowned for their generous and thoughtful hospitality: Francois Delahaye of The Dorchester Collection (worldwide); The ‘Aura’ Team at ME London Hotel; Alessio Campo, founder of ‘Ca Maria Adele’ palazzo hotel (Venezia); Roland Fasel of Aman Resorts; the team at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park (London); Shutters On The Beach (Santa Monica); Mark Godfrey and Stephen Poat at special event venue Deer Park Country House (Devon, England); Greg Day of The Malibu Beach Inn (California); Michael Bonsor of Rosewood (London); Allan Peters and Charles Worthington (St Tropez), Dianne Shand (New Zealand); Gerard Sintes of The Ritz (Madrid).