By Louise Oakley
What it took for me to finally take to TripAdvisor and have my say
I have just written something a little different from my usual interviews, features and analyses: I took to TripAdvisor and penned my first review. As a traveller with the good fortune to experience wonderful hotels, I had to ask myself what compelled me to finally write about a trip on a review site. It came down, as I’m sure you won’t be surprised, to the people.
The hotel in question was Azanzi Beach Resort in Zanzibar. I travelled with a group of 12 for a friend’s wedding and made my booking direct through a lady called Cara, who turned out to be the manager of the 35-villa resort. From the outset she was helpful, efficient and friendly, advising on vaccinations and visas, and flexible in changing my booking from single to double occupancy at the last minute.
When we arrived at the hotel late at night we were welcomed as if long-lost friends. The restaurant, which closed at 10pm, was kept open with the chefs at the buffet eager to grill fresh seafood for us and the bar area left accessible as long as we required.
This set the tone for the entire trip, with Cara’s right-hand man Glen escorting us one evening to the beach to a bar designed specifically for expats — we would not have known about this hidden retreat otherwise. It was only then we found out Glen had been working at Azanzi for just two weeks — you would never have guessed.
On the day of the wedding, the team really proved its worth. Very little had been planned in advance, but in a matter of hours, a gazebo had been erected, bouquets hand-tied by gardeners, a local band introduced and hired, a private dining area set up, a menu devised, a cake made and guests from across the resort invited to join the celebrations. The hotel team shared and appreciated every moment of the couple’s happiness, taking photos, offering congratulations and even showing us traditional dance routines. The day, we all concluded, was perfect.
I should add, the resort itself was stunning, with comfortable, luxurious villas and intimate bar and dining areas. However, this would not have been enough to lead me to TripAdvisor. It was the welcoming nature of the manager and the happy and helpful team that were responsible for this.
Now, with 35 villas of varying sizes and maximum occupancy of perhaps 85, with effort, it was quite possible for the team to engage with every guest. They knew us all by name, learned which drinks were our favourites and what we liked from the menu. This level of familiarity wouldn’t be possible at larger hotels, granted. But every luxury operator I come across speaks of the value of engaging with guests. There are plenty of opportunities for engagement during a stay, and as long as some are used, I believe the opportunity to make a lasting impression is still there. Just as the Azanzi team called me by name, I was able to return the favour — because they had introduced themselves. At the minimum, surely all hotel staff could manage this?