What makes a hotel exceptional

mandarin-oriental-hong-kong-photo

Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong.

There are many great hotels around the world but there are some which are truly exceptional. I’ve had the privilege of staying in some of them (in the days when my investment banking job paid the bills! :-) ) and I’ve often pondered about what makes a great hotel exceptional. From my experience, it’s the small touches which make the difference. On my recent trip to Hong Kong, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel was very kind to invite me for a stay. I’d heard of this hotel on many occasions; some of my friends have stayed there before and had nothing but great things to say about it. Needless to say, I was thrilled to receive the invitation and excited about the prospect of staying there. After my first night at the hotel, I was convinced: the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong is truly exceptional.

The small touches

During my stay, I was continuously impressed by their emphasis on the small touches, ones which make a stay comfortable and memorable. After checking in, I was escorted to my Harbour View room by the friendly receptionist. As she opened the door, the first thing that caught my eye was the magnificent view of Victoria Harbour. It was full of cruise ships, barges and ferries while stunning skyscrapers lined its shores.

Harbour view room

View of the harbour

The lady showed me the various amenities in the room, such as the settings of the lights (subtle or bright), the spacious bathroom with its rain-shower, the television and entertainment system, and the well-equipped writing desk. The lady pointed out the set of international adaptors built into the desk (very handy!). There were also two separate boxes next to the desk: one called the ‘Technology Kit’ with cables (in little velvet pouches) for internet connection, recharges for laptops, phones, etc…; and another with stationery. I turned around to check out the comfy chair at the window. Next to it was a little coffee table with a pair of binoculars (another lovely touch) – I knew then where I would be spending my afternoon: staring out the window from that comfy chair, binoculars in hand!

The gorgeous bathroom

The writing desk

A chair with a view, equipped with binoculars!

The Technology Kit

The desk kit with stationery & other handy items

The lady then led me to the room entrance and opened a small cupboard. She explained that if I would like my shoes to be polished or my clothes laundered, that I should leave them in this cupboard and press the little button in the cupboard. These would then be picked up by the housekeeping staff via a hidden door in the corridor outside the room. A blinking green light at the room door will alert me when my shoes and/or clothes were returned. My morning paper would also be delivered in the same, non-intrusive way. I was impressed!

A tea ceremony

The lady then explained the Mandarin Oriental tradition of offering their new guests a cup of tea. She rattled off a list of teas I could choose from – I chose jasmine – and she then excused herself for a minute. She returned with a gorgeous porcelain tea set on a tray and proceeded to perform a little tea ceremony before offering me an exquisite cup of jasmine tea. I’d never felt so welcome in a hotel!

The little tea ceremony

The beautiful tea and snack set

After she left, I explored the room a little more. There were two pairs of comfortable room slippers, with anti-slip soles, in two ‘his’ and ‘hers’ sizes (another great touch) and Ferragamo toiletries. I walked to the window with my cup of tea and took in the view. The first thing I noticed was a large construction site along the waterfront – the first thought that popped into my mind was that a whole series of skyscrapers were in the make and the grand harbour view from the room would be gone forever (and they would have to change the name of the rooms). A huge pity. However, as I turned my attention to the desk, my eye spied a postcard neatly tucked into the sleeve of the writing pad. On it was an image of what the view would look like when the new waterfront was completed – a large park and the same unobstructed view of the harbour – another small touch that just bowled me over!

A card with the view of the harbour in the future

Later that day, I decided to go for a quick swim in the hotel’s indoor lap pool. I was greeted by a lady with a gracious smile and a bowl of fruit. After several laps, I stepped out of the pool to find the lady standing ready with a towel, which she draped over my shoulders. She walked away as I towelled off, not before asking me if I would like a drink. Another impressive touch.

That evening, I returned to my room after a lovely dinner with friends. I’d not noticed it before but the corridors were lightly scented. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but it smelled rather like tea. I entered the room to discover that housekeeping had been in to turn down the bed. On the bed was a beautiful wooden tray which contained, among others, a breakfast card and eye pads (another superb touch). Just before turning in, I switched on the night-lights (very subtle lighting which illuminated the floor) and tried the eye-pads. The ice-cold pads were extremely soothing and I fell asleep in a flash – I wish I’d taken some home with me! ;-)

The view at night

The staff at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong made the biggest impression on me. They were attentive, quick to anticipate a guest’s needs (I’m still bowled over by my towel experience at the pool) and they provided service with a smile in a non-intrusive manner. It was a delight to watch them at work.

The final touch

Before I checked out of the room, I noticed a little card on the desk: an invitation for Mandarin Oriental guests to visit one of the Shanghai Tang stores to collect a mystery gift. I decided to collect mine at their airport store. After checking in for my flight and clearing immigrations, I headed straight for the Shanghai Tang store for my mystery gift. I handed in the card and was given a colourful little box in return. I opened it to find a little perfume bottle. The lady at the counter explained that it was a scent for the home. I sprayed it into the air and my thoughts immediately drifted back to the Mandarin Oriental – it was the same tea scent I’d smelled in the hotel’s corridors. Another amazing touch and a beautiful memento of my stay at this exceptional hotel.

Follow Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong on Twitter and facebook. Visit the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong.

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17 Responses to “What makes a hotel exceptional”

  1. Terry at Overnight New York 19/05/2011 3:43 am
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    I loved the coupon for a mystery gift from Shanghai Tang — and the actual gift, since fragrance is so evocative. Wish all hotel stays were like this one!

  2. velvet 09/03/2011 11:27 am
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    Thank you Gargi for your comment. It is indeed the human touch that makes all the difference.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  3. Gargi 09/03/2011 4:38 am
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    A hotel caters to such basic human needs like shelter and food….it’s all about people, really. It’s wonderful, then, that MO takes a step further to overdeliver the human touch. Point to be noted is that the binocs didn’t get there, unless someone thought of putting them there. The towel at the pool was an extension of anticipating the guest’s needs. The little perfume as a token was an afterglow of the entire experience. It was intended to deliver the fragrance and the feel of the compelling service during the stay.
    Essentially, then, it’s the human touch that adds and, if I may say, plays up the excellent hardware of Mandarin Oriental.

  4. Travelogged 31/01/2011 8:03 pm
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    Love that they gave you binoculars! It’s all abt the little touches… And the overall luxury :)

  5. Geoffrey Wu 26/01/2011 11:42 am
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    Dear All,

    Once again, I would like to thank you all for all your wonderful comments towards our Hotel Property in Hong Kong. It goes without saying, your support is much appreciated and we look forward to seeing you all in our hotel very soon in the coming future.

    Should I be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact myself directly. Please do also stay tuned on our hotel at http://www.facebook.com/mandarinorientalhongkong and http://www.twitter.com/mo_hkg

    Best Wishes
    Geoffrey Wu
    E-Commerce and Social Media Manager

  6. Costa Rica 26/01/2011 5:29 am
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    I love the binoculars and the sitting chair, priceless. I have noticed that when you get out of America, hotels and some airports are designed with the guests in mind. It truly is the small touches that can be the difference between a nice hotel and an exceptional hotel. Great article!

  7. Eurotrip Tips 20/01/2011 5:31 am
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    Indeed, these hotels are worth their prices. Nothing like a little pampering away from home to make you feel like home. Other than obvious comfort & cleanliness, which any hotel can have, it’s the small touches, like you said, that make all the difference and make us want to return.

  8. Andi 19/01/2011 11:36 pm
    #

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!! Now that’s a hotel! :)

  9. velvet 18/01/2011 10:01 pm
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    Thank you Leigh and Jeremy for your comments.

    Jeremy: if you’re in Hong Kong and looking to indulge yourself, I highly recommend the MO!
    Leigh: that’s horrific! Bless those Blackberries! :-)

  10. Leigh 18/01/2011 8:24 pm
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    The Mandarin Oriental sounds like a real winner and you are right – the small touches make a huge difference.

    On my recent trip to Chile & Argentina I stayed at a couple of very nice places but still some of the small touches were lacking let alone what I would consider necessities – things like a second pillow and hair dryer weren’t always the norm. In fact at a higher end boutique hotel that I stayed at in Santiago I got locked in my room – the magnetic key didn’t work, the phone line was dead and the outdoor patio had 10′ walls to scale. Fortunately my husband & friend had Blackberries – otherwise I would have been screaming for help. Literally.

    And I’ve got a Fairmont Hotels story from Nairobi that is still waiting for a happy ending – 3 months later.

  11. Jeremy B 18/01/2011 8:09 pm
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    Wow, I felt relaxed just reading this! It’s amazing what amenities hotels offer these days. I have never seen some of the things you mentioned like the amenities in the desk and the bags for your accessories. These type of hotel stays are only things I could win, never afford! Ha! You make it very tempting though and it definitely is a place to get pampered!

  12. velvet 18/01/2011 3:14 pm
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    Thank you for your comment Nicola. That’s another great example of a small touch that makes for a memorable stay.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  13. nicola 18/01/2011 3:12 pm
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    Great article!
    We stayed in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel as a part of our honeymoon trip to Hong Kong & Bali. I can only echo your words at how wonderful the staff were. A memory that stands out for me was our visit to the cocktail bar at the top of the hotel. The barman saw us arrive and straight away apologised for not having a window seat free. (He could tell we were honeymooners as apposed to the many businessmen in there) Our drinks were served, along with delicious free nibbles. We’d hardly taken a sip when the barman came back to us and escorted us straight to a window table that had become free. Sitting in that bar sipping cocktails with the view of the harbour all lit up against the night sky was easily one of the best memories of our trip. Amazing hotel – amazing staff.

  14. velvet 18/01/2011 2:29 pm
    #

    Hello Geoffrey,

    Thank you so much for hosting me in your fabulous hotel! It was certainly a memorable experience and a lesson in outstanding service!

    Best regards,
    Keith

  15. Geoffrey Wu 18/01/2011 2:20 pm
    #

    Dear Velvet Escape,

    On behalf of Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, my name is Geoff, responsible for our E-Commerce and Social Media. I would like to thank you for such wonderful article on our hotel during your stay and should you require our further assistance in the coming future, please do not hesitate to contact myself directly on this matter.

    We look forward to welcoming you back to our hotel very soon.

    Best Wishes
    Geoffrey Wu
    E-Commerce and Social Media Manager

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