Just as you shouldn't ever judge a book by its cover, so too should you wait to see the contents before passing opinion on a hotel.
This is the mantra that is often repeated on a visit to a new property, but unfortunately it never works.
Hotels offer so much more than bricks and mortar and beds that it often becomes the intangible elements of a property that define it - the feeling of warmth when you walk in the door or the sense of genuine service that you find in some properties. It's all about the first impression.
And often, this feeling is generated by brand perceptions, particularly those brands with long-standing reputations. However, hoteliers must be aware that brand values can be destroyed in moments.
Recently I visited Tiffany & Co in Dubai where the staff was unhelpful, disinterested and dressed in some of the most ill-fitting suits the city has to offer - in fact it was almost as if everyone in the store had been measured for their correct clothes and then given four sizes larger as a joke.
On the phone they were even worse; belligerent and rushed. It's unlikely I would ever return to that particular outlet, but the truth is that the whole experience has tarnished my view of Tiffany & Co as a company and an experience - all because of a couple of rude and ignorant staff.
There are so many guest-facing roles in the hotel that it is difficult to ensure all team members are up to the same standards.
Recently I visited the newly opened Media Rotana property where the valet service was almost non-existent. Actually, that's probably a bit unfair, they did drive the car away.
But after struggling in with our bags and a newborn baby we were greeted by a brilliant lobby host who helped us check-in, showed us around and was so genuinely caring that we briefly contemplated poaching her to baby-sit.
With one positive and one negative interaction the result was a fairly neutral impression of the property - proof perhaps that sometimes the only thing worse than bad press is no press.
The Middle East hotel industry has often struggled through sheer volumes to recruit and retain staff, however now that the economic climate is changing so too has the economic landscape shifted.
Downsizing, pay freezes and layoffs mean that it is becoming a candidate-rich market and investing in good quality staff now will inevitably pay dividends in the future.
As Fairmont Hotels regional vice president Philip Barnes said last month, it is times like these that you recognise how sacred your brand really is.
First impressions count more than ever these days - make sure your staff is completely equipped to do justice to your brand and your hotel.Chris Jackson is the senior editor of Hotelier Middle East.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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