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Saturday 9 September 2023

Is hospitality becoming a dying art?

There are a growing number of hotels - and restaurants - that seem to have forgotten that they are in the "hospitality" business.

Increasingly, hoteliers are looking to make life easier for their reduced number of staff - and less pleasant for guests - for many of whom a night away is a rare treat.

Among the gripes I am hearing about in both hotels and restaurants is the increasing use of QR codes.

I had a recent experience at an upmarket Melbourne hotel when I arrived late at night and wanted to order something from room service.

Just scan the QR code from the TV to order, I was told. Except the QR code did not work and the person on the other end of the phone was unhelpful and, I suspect, not even on site.

So I had to trudge back downstairs to talk to a human at reception and order a snack. Not what you want after a long flight. And what of older folk who do not have a mobile phone, or know how to use a QR code?

As for restaurants that want me to order using a QR code, just let me talk to a waiter or waitress, or I'm walking right out the door. A QR code can't tell me where my fish was caught, or other key elements of the menu.     

Then there is the issue of forcing people online to make restaurant bookings, or to change the time of their dinner reservation.

Not only are many restaurants now restricting guests to a two-hour dining window - tough luck if you want to wind down over another bottle of wine, someone else is booked in from 8;30pm, like it or not.

Recently, I tried to change the time of a dinner booking at a restaurant in a five-star hotel. Not only would the computer program not let me do that - it also immediately cancelled the reservation. And sent me an email confirming I would no longer be dining. 

Take that for being a nuisance!

Some hotels cannot even get the basics right. 

I was browsing the website of a luxury country property a few days ago - think several hundred dollars a night - and its website assured me "linen and towels provided".

What sort of a hotel would you be if you expected folk to bring their own towels and sheets? But maybe more hotels will want to follow the Airbnb model.

Of course, if you do want to check something with your hotel, or make a change, and do not want to get online, then you will probably have to ring a centralised booking office. 

This will often based in another country, where the staff have no clue about the place you will be staying and provide A1-style answers.

Bring back real hospitality. Just give me a nice, helpful person to talk to.

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