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A Hotel Insider Shares Secrets

Rachel Lee Harris, New York Times
Monday, 16 Apr 2012 | 9:23 AM ET

Think of Anthony Melchiorri as a capeless crusader for ailing hotels, swooping into troubled properties and conjuring cures. He is the host and driving force behind “Hotel Impossible,” a new show on the Travel Channel, and fixing what ails hotels is a skill he has been honing over decades in the industry.

Hotel Room
Photo by Darren Booth for CNBC.com
Hotel Room

As general manager of the iconic Algonquin in New York, he oversaw a major renovation of the building and its image. He is also a former vice president of Tishman Hotels and is the founder of Argeo Hospitality, a hotel management and consulting firm.

Here are excerpts from a conversation about how to find a great hotel and what to expect — and sometimes demand — from it.

Q.What’s the best hotel you ever stayed in?

A. A clean one.

Q.What are some of your favorites?

A. I love the Venetian in Las Vegas, Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. The Waldorf-Astoria — what Eric Long, the general manager, has been doing there is just tremendous. And who doesn’t love the Plaza? When I left, I literally cried because I didn’t want to leave that building.

Q.Any boutique hotels on your list?

A. The Benjamin, here in New York, and any of the Kimpton hotels — they really know how to treat their customers and they are always on the cutting edge of conserving.

For business travel, three-star hotels are doing a much better job. They’re getting better mattresses, they’re cleaner, and they are the ones giving you complimentary Internet and water. I still don’t understand why five-star hotels charge you for Internet, when that’s the biggest complaint corporate travelers have in the industry. I demand free Internet or I won’t go back.

Q.What’s the best way to find a great hotel?

A. Go online and look at reviews. I find them to be extraordinarily accurate. Go to third-party Web sites, oyster.com or TripAdvisor.

Q.Will people get better deals through a third party?

A. At the end of the day, book on the hotel’s Web site. If you find a deal on another site, you will rarely find it higher at the hotel’s, and you’ll have more flexibility with reservations.

Q.Where can travelers find the best deals?

A. Social media is big right now. Not a lot of people are booking there, but the good boutique hotels are doing promos on their Facebook sites and on Twitter.

Q.Any tips for how to get a good rate?

A. Check the competitors. If you check the rates at a comparable hotel and they are lower, the hotel will often meet their competitor’s price.

Q.What’s the best way to get an upgrade?

A. Always pack your smile. A front desk agent has a lot of control over what room you have, so always be polite no matter how bad your trip has been. They might try to up-sell you and offer a better room at a discounted rate. Or, if you’re really nice, they might give you a complimentary upgrade, with the hope that you’ll return.

Q.Who and when should you tip?

A. Tip your housekeeper every day because it’s not always the same person cleaning your room. If it’s a three-star hotel, give $3 or $4; if it’s a four-star, give a little bit more; if it’s a five-star you can afford $20 or $30 a day. A doorman makes an hourly wage and it’s less than anyone else’s in the hotel. If he does his job and is making my life easier, I always tip him.

Q.Will you get better service if you tip the concierge?

A. A good concierge does not expect a tip. In big cities, they won’t put you in a better restaurant because of a tip. If you’re trying to get into the best restaurant in town or get tickets to a Broadway show, a little tip up front doesn’t hurt.

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