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Thu 10 Sep 2009 04:00 AM

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Sort out your service

Four Hotel Spy mystery shopper exercises reveal a lack of efficient, quality service in hotels, says Louise Oakley.

The four Hotel Spy mystery shopper exercises that Hotelier Middle East has run so far this year in partnership with Grass Roots have each month highlighted the same issue: a lack of efficient, quality service in hotels.

The properties, including high-end Banyan Tree Al Areen in Bahrain and One&Only Royal Mirage in Dubai and two of this month's candidates - Grand Hyatt Doha and W Doha in Qatar all failed to serve potential guests adequately in terms of making a room reservation over the telephone.

Other hotels struggled in terms of providing a full concierge service and even with the most basic of skills - attending to a guest's need for a refreshment.

These hotels are by no means alone, with the service issues mentioned regularly experienced by visitors to this region.

The negative, even stressful, impact of this on a guest's hotel experience was brought home to me on a recent trip to Istanbul, Turkey.

To my surprise, not once during my four-night stay did I have to chase an order for a drink, call housekeeping for a missing item - and have to keep calling until the item was delivered - or repeat my order from a restaurant menu.

In addition, the concierge was proactive and helpful, even making a reservation at a restaurant outside of the hotel, and the staff at all levels was genuinely friendly.

Furthermore, not only was the vast majority of staff I came into contact with at the hotels Turkish and able to provide useful insights into the city in which they worked, but the level of spoken English was very impressive, adding to my positive experience.

The hotels to which I am referring sit at the top-end - Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus and Swissôtel The Bosphorus, Istanbul, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World.

They share fantastic locations on the Bosphorus, but they are vastly different in many ways, with just 141 guest rooms and 25 suites at Four Seasons, for example, and more than 600 keys at the Swissôtel.

Still, both managed a personalised and efficient service, achieved even when the hotel was practically at full occupancy (Swissôtel) or managing a major event for a third party (Four Seasons).

I didn't realise until I returned to Dubai the significance of these encounters; I didn't have one bad word to pass on. I just hope I remember these visits for as long as a guest would no doubt recall a negative experience.

For too long visitors to the region - and local residents - have been telling stories of poor service and negative experiences; now is the time to reverse this trend.

Louise Oakley is the editor of Hotelier Middle East.

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