What Makes a Great Hotel? The Maestro of Hospitality Speaks

by Monique Burns

This is the second of two parts.

Anthony Melchiorri knows hotels inside-out. As a former hotelier and the host of Travel Channel’s hit reality series, “Hotel Impossible,” he knows what makes a great hotel great and a horrible hotel horrifying.

Despite a busy schedule running his consulting firm Argeo Hospitality and hosting his TV show, Melchiorri agreed to share his insights, experience and advice with Travel Market Report.

In Part One, Melchiorri advised agents on how to get the best for their clients. Here, he discusses the hallmarks of a truly great hotel and divulges his personal favorites and hotel horror stories.

What defines a top hotel?
Melchiorri: A top hotel starts with the people. The people who work in the hotel, who manage the hotel and, more importantly, the people who own the hotel.

You can have all the marble in the world and butler service, but if you have rude people that don’t take care of your needs, you don’t have anything.  

Are we talking about four- and five-star hotels?
Melchiorri: A five-star hotel really should be no different from a three-star hotel. What you see behind the scenes in a five-star hotel is no different from what you see in a three-star.  

How important are ratings?
Melchiorri: You have a five-star hotel that has all these ratings from AAA or another rating service.  But you go online, and the guests only rated it three stars. Are you going to that hotel?  Definitely not. Because you’re paying $500 a night, and everybody’s saying they’re not having a great experience, it’s not working. Don’t go there.  

Now you take a three-star hotel, and everyone’s saying, ‘Oh my God, this is service I never expected. It’s very clean, the breakfast is plentiful, everyone’s so friendly, it’s well-located.’ Are you going? The answer is yes, of course, you’re going.  

Do you have any personal hotel horror stories?  
Melchiorri: There was one hotel about 20 years ago in Cape May (N.J.). The hotel was nice but it looked like Coney Island. It’s got these clowns everywhere. My wife – we were newly married – didn’t like it.

She goes, ‘I can’t take it. If we leave, the owner is going to get upset at us and keep our money.’  I say, ‘Follow me – and don’t stop.’

We’re going down the stairs, and this woman, the owner, is at the bottom of the stairs: ‘Why are you taking your luggage?’
‘We’re checking out. My wife doesn’t like the hotel.’
‘What’s wrong with the hotel?’
‘It’s not her cup of tea – we’re leaving.’
And she’s like, ‘Well, you can’t leave.’  
‘Yeah, we can.’
And she’s like, ‘You’re not getting your money back.  
‘Oh, we’re getting our money back. You can keep one night, but we’re getting the rest of our money back because you’ve got a 24-hour cancellation policy, and we’re canceling for tomorrow.’

We basically had to stampede over the woman to get out the door. We never went back, and I never recommended the hotel. If she had been nice to me, I would have told everybody to go to that hotel. It’s not our cup of tea, but you may like that kind of hotel.

Any Hotel Impossible horror stories?
Melchiorri: I went to a four-and-a half-star hotel in Greece and in the spa there was mold everywhere. Everywhere. It was sucking up my life. It was killing me. It was killing me! And it was a beautiful hotel, with beautiful views, with nice service. It was filthy!

We went to one hotel that I didn’t think I could fix. It literally had over a thousand bedbugs in one room. It was the worst bedbug infestation we’ve ever seen. There were tenants living there that were doing drugs, prostitutes. It was terrible. But we turned it around.

There have been hotels where I found syringes filled with drugs or blood. I found a hotel that didn’t have a working fire alarm for many, many years. The person didn’t know the fire alarm didn’t work, and he ran the hotel.

Related story
Lodging Lessons From a Master: How to Get the Best for Your Client


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Tip of the Day

I do think there are possibilities for traveler advisors to make money doing domestic trips. I charge a planning fee for my time and expertise, and then book commissionable hotels and activities that meet the client’s needs.

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