The joy of the towel elephant: Hospitality loves and hates

The joy of the towel elephant: Hospitality loves and hates

Sometimes the travel industry gets it right, sometimes it leaves us with a pillow chocolate stuck to our face

In many ways our relationship with the hospitality industry is like a fledgling romance.

Sometimes, it pulls some smooth moves, everything just clicks and we walk hand in hand into the sunset. 

But just as often, its fumbling advances leave us feeling cheap, embarrassed and more than a little concerned about an itchy rash.

So, in the interest of seeing this relationship through its growing pains, here are a few hints about what we’d like to see more of -- and less of -- if the hospitality industry hopes to get us past first base.

Let us know your loves and hates in the comments box below.


airport taxis"Have you got a limo? Yes? In that case I am Mr Cyp."

We love airport taxi driver signs

Foreign airports can be intimidating places. Humidity hangs in the air, smells hang in the toilets and the moustaches hang off the faces of customs officials.

These can all leave the frazzled traveler feeling disorientated.

So, when we emerge onto a concourse filled with hundreds of baying touts, there's nothing more comforting than seeing a small cardboard sign bearing our misspelled name.

This is our ticket through the chaos. Instantly, we have a friend and guide to get us through the perilous first few hours, to usher us to an air-conditioned vehicle and navigate the potholed roads that lie between us and our hotel.

And if we’re not too choosy about where we’re staying, there’s no need to book ahead to take advantage of this service.

Few drivers speak our language and will be so bored of waiting, they’ll happily accept our claim to be “Goerge Cloney.” Clooney can find his own way there.

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airport welcome drinksMore like cough syrup than a drink. Which, after a 10-hour flight, may not be such a bad thing.

We hate welcome drinks

Because -- after we’ve traveled halfway across the world in a cramped and airless passenger jet -- the last thing we want on arrival at our resort is a glass of sugary punch to swill into the fur-coated hole we used to call our mouth.

Maybe hotel staff think that hot, sticky and uncomfortable guests need hot, sticky and uncomfortable beverages. But what’s wrong with a freshly brewed cup of tea or coffee or a restorative pitcher of beer?

Failing those, a bucket of cold water would do the trick.

pillow chocolateCuter and more practical than a pillow pizza.

We love pillow chocolates

There’s a glorious lack of logic to the hotel habit of placing chocolates on pillows. When we’ve cleaned our teeth in readiness for a snooze, why do we then need a mouthful of sugar?

But for anyone who relishes the joy of a new hotel room -- trampolining on beds, raiding minibars, stealing bathrobes -- pillow chocolates serve to heighten those childish pleasures.

They do, however, present a hazard to those too exhausted or inebriated to spot them. Although there are probably hotels somewhere that deliberately cater to this, most guests won’t enjoy waking up to find a blotch of warm, brown goo sliding down their cheeks.

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bellboy Carry them from our front door, then we may have a deal.

We hate bellboys

We’ve bounced our suitcase down six million steps from our apartment. We’ve pulled every muscle in our upper bodies hoisting it into the overhead lockers. We’ve survived angry mobs bent on avenging the elderly woman we hospitalized with a careless swing of our backpack.

So why do we now need to tip someone to carry our bags the last 20 meters?

Sure, we appreciate that some frail or lazy folk need a helping hand with their luggage. But look at us: we’re normal human beings, we’ve made it this far and we can manage on our own.

It’s a long shot, but we can probably also figure out how to switch on the lights in our room, flush the toilet and put the large denomination banknote, which is inevitably the only cash we have on us right now, to much better use.

towel elephantA cute pair of trunks.

We love towel elephants

“Towel elephant” sounds like a euphemism for an unexpected encounter in the men’s steam room, but actually describes a form of origami deployed by some hotels.

This involves folding together a hand and bath towel to produce a cute, fluffy pachyderm, replete with trunk, ears and legs.

Towels have long been at the frontline of hotel cost-cutting -- usually in the shape of those environmental notices that urge you to reuse them as much as possible -- so it’s nice to see a bit of attention lavished on them for once.

Just remember to unfold them before use. There can be few things more distressing to hotel maids than seeing a damp elephant in the corner of the bathroom, its trunk drooping in shame.

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hotel musicBest way to ruin a peaceful space? Flood it with instantly forgettable music.

We hate hotel music

There are two types of jazz -- and they’re both execrable. Neither more so than when they’re oozing through a hotel loudspeaker system.

As if it wasn’t bad enough to smother us with soft saxophone every time we step into an elevator, many hotels also pursue us down their corridors via loudspeakers embedded in the ceiling.

In psychological warfare, music is often blasted round-the-clock at targets to force them into surrender.

This won’t work if the enemy has spent any amount of time in a hotel. There are probably still al-Qaeda fighters holed up in the mountain caves of Afghanistan, grumbling that their pillow chocolates haven’t arrived yet.

hotel wifiGood Wi-Fi -- major cause of traveler insomnia.

We hate feeble Wi-Fi signals

For most people, an Internet connection is now as essential as having water on tap in the bathroom. So if you’re going to include it in the price of our hotel room, make sure you give us a strong, uninterrupted signal.

If the water slows to a trickle or cuts out every couple of minutes, angry guests will willingly stomp down to Reception, naked apart from a bath towel, to point wet accusing fingers at the manager.

Given that many bored business travelers also use the Internet while naked apart from a bath towel, it’s in everyone’s interests to ensure they are kept online and their wet accusing fingers are kept out of Reception.

breadstick The greatest appetite killer ever devised.

We love free breadsticks

Perhaps love is too strong a word. But we like them a lot, so do keep them coming while we’re deciding what to order.

Yes, obviously some are finding their way into our pockets for later consumption, but after the “towel elephant” incident in Reception and that George Clooney mix-up with the taxi, it could be a while before we’re able to sneak past the bellboys and get to eat our pillow chocolates.

Originally published August 2012, updated December 2012.

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