What Should Guests Expect from a Luxury Hotel?

Guests have the right to expect all this from a hotel that calls itself "luxury"


Who Decides If a Hotel Is Luxury or Not? 

Today, the word "luxury" has been degraded by overuse. But for experienced, demanding luxury travelers, "luxury hotel" has to mean something specific, because guests paying high hotel rates have a right to expect high standards of hospitality: in service, in rooms, in dining, and in everything else a good hotel offers. 

The hospitality industry generally accepts hotel star ratings designated by Forbes (formerly Mobil), by AAA, and other critically-minded organizations. Yett there are no set standards for "luxury hotels," and both four-star and five-star hotels generally describe themselves as "luxury."

The luxury hotel "musts" below are mine. See if you agree with me about the things that travelers have every right to expect from a luxury hotel.

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    Easy, Intelligent, Respectful Planning

    Man using a laptop in a hotel room
    ••• Hotel planning should be super-easy for guests. ONOKY - Eric Audras/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

    Booking a Luxury Hotel Shouldn't Be Complicated

    The reservation process should be simple, and you should get all the help you need. This should apply whether you book directly with the hotel, or any other way (through the hotel's association such as Relais & Chateaux, or via a Virtuoso luxury travel agent, through a discounter like LuxuryLink, or through a booking site like Expedia or TripAdvisor (Intrigued by al the options? Discover 12 cool ways to get a luxury vacation for less.)

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    Fast, Easy, Discreet Checkin & Checkout

    hotel check in
    ••• A big smile is more welcoming than a fruit basket in your room. PeopleImages / Getty Images

    Who Wants to Wait to Check In or Check Out?

    Nothing's more frustrating than waiting on a long checkin line when you've spent the day just getting to the hotel. Luxury travelers hate to wait! Many hotels have taken a cue from the Apple Store, and have no checkin or checkout lines, but roving personnel who do it all on iPads. Once you've checked in, your luggage should take no more than 10 minutes to arrive in your room.

    On checkout day, a luxury hotel should offer video or express checkout and quickly settle any discrepancies on your bill.

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    You Get the Room You Wanted

    Viceroy New York
    ••• You wanted a view in your NYC hotel room? Hello, Viceroy Central Park. ©2017 Viceroy Hotel Group

    Your Room Is Just the Kind You Wanted

    The room you're assigned to should be exactly the type of room you want. A true luxury hotel will accommodate your request regarding all of these elements: room category or level; special room classification: (Pet-friendly? Allergen-free? Enhanced mobility?); physical location in the hotel (Near the lobby or secluded? city, garden, or beach view? Ground floor? High floor? Near the elevator? Away from A/C generators and ice machines?); a king or twin beds, as you desire; options like a plunge pool or balcony).

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    What a Luxury Hotel Room Offers Guests

    Musicians Suite at Corinthia Hotel London
    ••• The two-level Musicians' Suite at Corinthia Hotel London has a baby grand piano. ©Corinthia Hotels & Resorts

    Paying for a Great Room? You Want These Features

    I have a long list of enhanced room features that must be present for a hotel to be considered luxury. This covers most of them. See if all your "musts" are here.
    I seek a room that strikes me as lovely as soon as I walk in: with consistent design, high-quality furnishings, and no cheap touches such as rickety reading lamps. I look for overall attention to aesthetic detail (my bête noire is visible jungles of electric cords).

    I want a quiet room not near the elevator nor generators and A/C equipment. I need a room with fresh air and no odors such as old smoke, mildew, aggressive room freshener, or strong cleanser.

    I look for real plaster (or adobe, stucco, wooden) walls; if wallpapered, not the plastic wipe-down kind.I hope for original art on the walls, whether paintings, numbered prints, or art photos (not generic Paris café shots, posters, or cheap prints). I need at least one window that can actually be opened. I hope for...MORE pleasant fabric window curtains. with a layer that blocks the light.

    I want a king bed (the default luxury travel bed) with a reasonably firm mattress, smooth all-cotton sheets, no synthetic mattress cover, a natural-fiber bedspread, and a variety of pillow types in the room or a phone call away.

    In the room, I need adequate storage (tabletop, counter, drawer, and closet space. (A distressing lumber of hotels have dispensed with drawers or even shelves for your clothes.) The closet should have sufficient hangers, and not the kind attached to the rod.

    The room should have a reading chair chosen for comfort, not artiness;
    a desk or work surface; a safe; a good-size flat TV (not pivoting from the ceiling, hospital-style); an iPhone/iPod dock or jack so you can hear your own music;  a (quiet) clock, and not a 70s-style clock-radio; a coffee maker; a full-length mirror, perhaps in the closet; an effective and reasonably quiet heating/AC system that you can control easily, and keeps your room the temp you set/

    These I want on the house: WiFi and bottled water (and if they're only for members of the hotel's loyalty club, go ahead and join!)

    What don't you want in your room? Don't let your hotel get away with these cheap corner-cutting moves!

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    True Luxury Hotel Bathrooms Go Beyond

    The Inn of the Five Graces bathroom
    ••• Every bathroom at The Inn of the Five Graces is lavished with mosaic tiles. ©The Inn of the Five Graces

    Luxury Travelers Are Into Hotel Bathrooms

    Luxury hotel bathrooms have become an area of scrutiny and pride, much like upscale home bathrooms. I look for:

    A ventilation source, even a fan; his-and-hers sinks; a partitioned, private john; sufficient counter space for your stuff; convenient outlets;
    unstained, unchipped counters, whether marble or tile; a tub built for two, and not too high to step into; good water pressure in the shower; prestige or artisan toiletries that smell neither too flowery nor masculine, and that, for now, are not made in China; bath gel as well as bar soap (two bars: one for the sink, one for the shower); shower cap, Q-trips, and a mending kit; robes and slippers; plenty of fluffy, high-quality terry towels; makeup mirror that lights; enough racks or hooks for drying hand laundry (so easy to provide, yet so rare). In Europe and many other places, you should expect a bidet, and in Asian luxury hotels, a TOTO toilet.

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    Fenisia Hotel Taiwan
    ••• Gracious hotel staff at Fenisia Hotel in Taiwan. © Karen Tina Harrison

    Luxury Hotel Service: So Many "Shoulds"

    Luxury hotel guests should get the feeling that they are known and valued. I once profiled a Tahiti resort that resembled Paradise, but the staff's haughty, cold, derisive manner made it feel like Alcatraz.

    Luxury hotel guests should expect hotel personnel who greet guests with at least a smile at every encounter. And they should greet you by name if there's no one else to overhear.

    Hotel housekeeping should be quiet, thorough, and dependable. A maid should never remove anything of yours, including empty shopping bags, ribbons and gift wrap, half-drunk water bottles, and wet shower caps. Nightly turndown service is essential.

    Housekeeping should not use heavily ammoniated or other highly chemical-smelling cleaners or cheaply perfumed cleaning products. This applies not just to your room but to the hotel's corridors, common areas, and restaurants. Non-irritating, more natural products are readily available to hotels that care.

    Mainte...MOREnance personnel and handymen should appear at your room within minutes to attend to your locked safe, jammed coffee maker, or what ails you.

    Gardeners and outdoor workers cannot interfere with a guest's enjoyment of the property. They should not criss-cross the lawn in front of your lounger, or work near your pool chaise. And leaf-blowers and the like have no place in a luxury hotel. More: see what hospitality guru Eric Weiss says hotels ​hotels must do for guests;

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    Outstanding Hotel Dining

    The fabulous Joel Robuchon restaurnt in Vegas
    ••• Dining at Joel Rocuchon Las Vegas is one of life's peak dining experiences. ©MGM Grand

    Luxury Hotels Offer Guests at Least One Very Good Place to Eat

    Even a small boutique hotel should offer its guests a place to eat and, ideally, another place to drink. The restaurant and bar should be attractive, with good food. Room service must be offered. In urban hubs, it should be available 24 hours.

    Hotels should do breakfast right, or not do it at all. Many hotels, especially in Europe, include breakfast with the room rate. These breakfasts are usually excellent buffets. But American hotels that offer complimentary breakfast too often supply only packaged cereals, cottony bagels, and the like. Not a good way to start the day.

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    Guest Activities and Amenities

    Attention, swimmers! Loews Hotel in Philly has a beautiful lap pool
    ••• Courtesy of Loews Hotels

    A Luxury Hotel Furnishes Comfort and Entertainment

    A luxury hotel should offer its guests these services. And not just guests who have upgraded to club-floor status.

    A 24-hour fitness center with at least a range of basic equipment: a Stairmaster, a treadmill, a stationary bike, free weights, and floor mats.
    A pool, if at all possible given the hotel's space.
    Round-the-clock room service.
    A social lobby area away from the drafty entrance, with couches, wifi, and bar service.
    Laundry service.
    Babysitting, petsitting, dog-walking, and personal trainer referrals.
    A concierge who knows more than you can get from Google, and who does not push tourist traps onto guests.

    A private butler is nice too. How sweet it is not to have to do travel's most tedious tasks yourself, like unpacking and packing. Butlers do this and more. And you'll never again leave behind a sock, scarf, or 

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  • 09 of 11

    Complimentary Touches

    woman hotel wifi coffee
    ••• Free coffee and WiFi is a must have in any luxury hotel. Hero Images / Getty Images

    Free at Last! Luxury Hotels Should Not Charge for Basics

    A luxury hotel should offer these services at no charge to its guests, who are paying so much already -- and not disguise charges in a "resort fee." Hotels should offer these on the house:

    Bottled water and coffee maker in the room.
    Morning coffee served in the lobby.
    Room wifi (we all agree: asking guests to pay for this is especially infuriating).
    Fitness center (a certain American-branded five-star hotel in Vienna charged guests 40 Euros for gym visits).
    Pool access, lounger, towel.
    Access to the spa's locker room, steam room, sauna, and basic hydrotherapy pools.
    Shuttles around the resort, to sister resorts, and to the nearby town.
    Local phone calls (especially important overseas, when you might not want to use your mobile phone).
    Printouts at the concierge desk.

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    Examples of True Luxury Hotels

    Grand Hotel Majestic Bologna
    ••• The lobby of the Grand Hotel Majestic già Baglioni. © 2017 The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd.

    These gracious hotels have been scrutinized by luxury travel writers for TripSavvy, and have been deemed no-doubt-about-it luxury hotels.
    New York: The Pierre Hotel
    Adirondacks: The Point
    Baltimore: Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore
    Washington, DC: The Jefferson
    Palm Beach: Eau Palm Beach
    Fort Lauderdale: The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale
    Miami, Florida: Turnberry Isle
    Chicago: The Langham, Chicago
    Beaver Creek, Colorado: The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch
    Santa Fe, New Mexico: The Inn of the Five Graces
    Las Vegas: Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace
    Near San Diego: Fairmont Grand Del Mar
    Santa Barbara: El Encanto
    Maui, Hawaii: The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
    Nevis, Caribbean: Four Seasons Resort Nevis
    Turks & Caicos, Caribbean: Parrot Cay by COMO
    Cancun, Mexico: Le Blanc Spa Resort and NIZUC Resort
    Riviera Maya, Mexico: Zoetry Paraiso Bonita
    Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: Casa Velas
    Nicaragua: Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa
    Vancouver Island, Canada: Wickaninnish Inn
    Toronto, Canada: Shangri-La Hotel Toronto
    London: The Langham, London ...MOREand Corinthia Hotel London
    Scotland: Cameron House and Andy Murray's The Cromlix 
    Algarve, Portugal: Bela Vista
    Nice, France: Le Negresco
    Amalfi, Italy: Monastero Sant Rosa
    Zurich, Switzerland: The Dolder Grand
    Helsinki, Finland: Hotel Kämp
    Spain: Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine
    Thailand: Ritz-Carlton Phulay Bay
    Bali, Indonesia: Fairmont Sanur Beach Bali
    Fiji, Micronesia: Turtle Island Resort
    Taipei, Taiwan: Regent Taipei​​
    North Island, New Zealand: Eagles Nest

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