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.
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 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!
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!
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 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.