Neale Whitaker shares his hotel hits and misses.
In the age of Airbnb, hotels must work harder than ever to woo weary travellers
I’m currently spending a couple of nights each week in hotels. Relationship problems? Thank you for asking, but no, everything’s fine. We’re filming Love It Or List It Australia in five cities – and that means a lot of domestic airport terminals and hotel rooms. But I love hotels (I could give TV’S The Hotel Inspector a serious run for her money) and I’ve stayed in plenty over the years, some breathtaking, some toe-curling, and the majority somewhere in-between.
I have hotel anecdotes to make you squirm (rats, anyone?), and some to elicit pure envy. But I also have a list of hotel gripes that might correspond to our burgeoning, Instagram-fuelled pursuit of perfection or perhaps the new ubiquity of Airbnb. Whatever the rationale, my list is getting longer. On a difficult-to-please scale, where one is “whatever” and 10 is a Real Housewife of Melbourne, I’m barely a five, but hoteliers please take note: you need to lift your game.
Red Bull and giant chocolate freckles do not make for a sophisticated minibar. “Love those decaffeinated instant coffee granules,” said no-one, ever. I need more than four coat hangers in a double robe and, when possible, a magnifying glass so I can tell the shower gel from the shampoo. That infuriating raised bathroom floor needs LED lighting so I can avoid stubbing my sleep-befuddled toes. When I order room service, cutlery shouldn’t be an option that I need to request. And don’t get me started on wall switches that require training manuals, wind-tunnel air-conditioning, ironing boards that leap from cupboards and one-switch-flicks-all lighting that comes with just two options: pitch dark or sunglasses. Or curtains that go from total blackout to exhibitionist.
Interior designer Nic Graham (nicgraham.com) knows about these things. Currently putting the finishing touches to the 312-room W Brisbane, he has designed more than a few hotels, including the cutting-edge QT Hotels in locations like Sydney, Melbourne, Port Douglas and Queenstown in New Zealand. Graham understands that hotel rooms have to spark “an immediate feeling of wellbeing”.
His mandatory checklist includes simple switches and phone chargers; oversized flat-screen TVS; versatile, task-appropriate lighting; generous mirrors (“for good selfies”); ample suitcase storage and a flexible working space. Graham also notes the importance of “a sparkling bathroom that guests don’t have at home, preferably with two basins and adequate space for your toiletry bag”. I may be bald, but I travel with a veritable pharmacy of products. So to that final point I have just one response. Hallelujah. Neale Whitaker is editor-at-large of Vogue Living.
“Red Bull and giant chocolate freckles do not make for a chic minibar”
CHECKING IN (clockwise from top left) Interior designer Nic Graham’s rooms at QT Bondi incorporate the mandatory “sparkling bathroom” with subway tiling and deep tub; his design for QT Queenstown showcases Bondi Beach has been newly renovated.