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Monthly Archives: May 2010

10 Questions For (33): Patrick Goff of Hoteldesigns

I’m glad to continue my favorite series of interviews with those of interest in the hotel and travel community. Today I like to introduce Patrick Goff @HotelDesigns to you.

1) Who am I?

Good Question.  I have been asking myself for at least 40 of my 63 years. Was it Descartes who said, “I think therefore I am”? Well I create, and this defines me.  As a small boy I was in trouble when I caricatured an uncle as a great ape so successfully that for twenty years he held a grudge about the teasing he got from his brothers.

In the 1960′s, the greatest decade of the 20th century, I was at Art College at Bath Academy. Listening to the Beatles and Stones, going to Zappa concerts and discovering what a great invention the Pill was. Art College in the mid to late sixties was an amazing mind expanding experience.  I was a studio assistant to artists as well as finding my own artistic voice.

There followed some 15 years in which my goal was only to work as an artist, an activity that saw me having 3 shows a year and interviewed on radio, TV and national press. My work is in private and public collections alike. I taught in art colleges for a while. Then marriage changed the landscape, along with a critics review in the Guardian that led to me withdrawing from public exhibiting.

I still paint, and look forward to doing more in the future, but I no longer exhibit. Of course I also now spend a great deal of time photographing hotels, and HotelDesigns provides an outlet for my creativity through photography and writing, albeit somewhat ironically as a critic.

Practising-for-when-I-had-a-camera-(c.1953)

2) What do I like about what I do?

After some twenty years designing hotels I wanted more than to be a working designer. I started HotelDesigns by chance and when divorce forced me to leave the award winning design practice I had built, I used the site to create a magazine about the work of the hotel design profession, much underrated by hoteliers for the contribution it can make to an hotels profitability and popularity.

Editing HotelDesigns, with its 80,000 readers a month, is challenging. Almost as challenging is making it pay. My magazine differs from most in that we actually visit the hotels we write about, and we insist on taking our own photographs. This makes production slower and more costly but has given me the pleasure over the last eight years of visiting 27 countries on four continents to write my Reviews and Miniviews of hotels. No longer just written by me, I now have a staff of two reporters and one freelance writer who contribute, as well as support staff.

The real fun is in the travel and looking at the range and breadth of hotels provision, the variation in standards and discovering gems such as Haagsche Suites.

3) What Don’t I like?

I don’t like the constant selling, fighting with the bank and struggling to be profitable. I don’t like flying, which used to be an adventure and have some romance but is now, at every level, a degrading, dehumanising and uncomfortable experience.

I especially don’t like four star hotels claiming five star status, abetted by corrupt rating authorities who don’t enforce their own guidelines. I particularly hate accountant driven design decisions in so-called luxury hotels, where bathrooms don’t have separate walk-in showers as well as soaking tubs, where concepts of luxury are compromised by penny pinching attitudes. I especially dislike buildings where it is obvious that there were cost overruns in the construction phase that have been recovered by cutting the finishes budget – the bit the guest really notices.

4) About HotelDesigns and its Aims.

HotelDesigns aims to promote the work of the specialist hotel design fraternity. Interior design is different to architecture, and hotels should be designed from the inside out. Nor should good design be expensive so we cover all standards from the basic hotels like Etap through to the top luxury establishments. We try to show how so-called B&B’s like Haagsche Suites are designed to a standard that embarrasses high flown neighbours such as the Meridien Den Haag.

We try to be a picture rich environment so that details such as the skirting board design, or wash hand basin panel design can be seen clearly. We aim to be a one stop resource where designers and hoteliers alike can find inspiration, ideas and those who can help them realise those ideas.

We carry a sourcing Directory (free to use) which has global contract only suppliers, contractors and a list of hotel experienced designers. No retailers here, and people with genuine expertise to share.  Companies in the Directory come from Europe, India, China, Middle East and North America.

Our DesignClub provides information such as standards guidelines, details of hotel groups, a Gallery which currently has over 15,000 images and to which we add about 500 a month, mainly of hotel interiors. It also details Hotel Groups development plans, economic forecasts and analyses of our industry.

Everything we do remains available on line – and archive of over 150 hotels looked at in depth with another 7,000 articles which include articles on Spa design, on Branding in Hotels, on the history of Design through the Bauhaus for example. There are articles on colour, on ‘going green’ and profiles of leading designers and supply companies.

This is a rich resource for those wanting to see what is happening around the world as well as a growing history of hotel design in the 21st century.

5) My top 3 Destination Experiences

About four years ago I discovered Bushmans Kloof in the Cederburg Mountains of South Africa. I have characterised it as a little piece of heaven on earth. It is losing its innocence now it has been in Condé Nast and has had an all weather road constructed to it – in winter last time I was there it was cut off by rain turning the road into an impassable morass. When I went back I was prepared to be disappointed but enjoyed it as much as ever.

Second would be Damaraland in Namibia. Brilliantly designed, not so brilliant as an hotel operation, but mind blowing scenery. To have a leopard purring loudly outside your bedroom door is unnerving when your partner says go see what it is.

Thirdly Berlin. For me seeing Europe’s most exciting city during its rebirth has been memorable and still excites. I stayed in several excellent hotels but the Radisson Blu with its remarkable fish tank, making the whole thing a memorable destination experience.

6) My Top three accommodations

I’d measure this by the ones my girl friend says we have to go back to one day. They would include, you’ll be please to hear, Haagsche Suites! There are many to choose from but the Marine in Hermanus is one she insists we go back to, another which I have never featured, but we go back to quite frequently is a Relais du Silence in Luxembourg, which I am selfishly going to keep to myself.

7) My Top 3 food/wine experiences

Best has to be the memorable lunch at Gidleigh Park with Michael Caines in the kitchen. Beautiful day and the most memorable meal by a Michelin starred chef.

Secondly lunch in a South African vineyard, watching baboons walk past about 50 metres away whilst drinking a chilled South African white, flinty and pale.

Thirdly dinner overlooking the waterhole on the edge of the Etosha National Park in Namibia (Ongava Lodge is a Review waiting to be written)with an parade of rhino, giraffe, gemsbok, and (my favourites) guinea fowl by the hundred processing past, with a local red wine washing down char grilled Springbok

8) My 3 Worst destination Experiences

Can I name them without giving offence I wonder? The spa in Hungary which had no doors on the treatment rooms, windows open to the gardens beyond where the masseuse had put shawls across for privacy, and a sound system that was a ghetto blaster in the corridor outside the treatment rooms. Someone though it a good idea to add a water system that ran at 5-bar, giving a shower that created its own cloud patterns in the bathroom it was so powerful, and which flayed you alive when taking a shower. Food was buffet bad, like a holiday camp.

The Budget Hotel chain I couldn’t write about because of the semen stains on the bedcover and carpet, the delaminated suspiciously stained toilet seat (the photographs will never make it into the Gallery in the DesignClub). Staying on a Sunday with it on a business park where there were no restaurants for miles.

The five star hotel in Holland where the dining room chairs were too low, the wardrobe rails too high to reach and where the bottle bank, emptied at five in the morning, was underneath my bedroom window. Food service was unmemorable and would have to have been wonderful to overcome the annoyance at the poor design.

9) Tips for London

If you like shopping, the newest five star, the Arch is nearly on Oxford Street. For a bargain haggle with the Grange St Pauls at the weekend, or the Marriott West Quay – both primarily serve the business market and offer cut price quality rooms at the weekends.

Near St. Pauls is what is currently my favourite London restaurant, North Bank, but I like to take visitors to the Old Cheshire Cheese just off Fleet Street. Refurbished after a fire in 1666, this has a chair marked as being where Charles Dickens sat. Redolent of history, it serves traditional British food which has delighted everyone I have taken there. A Belgium friend wondered why British food had such a poor reputation after a steak pudding and a helping of Spotted Dick.

On a wet day a museum or gallery- my favourite being either the Geoffrey Museum in the Kingsland Road, with its history of English interiors, or the Museum of London after its recent refurbishment. But then I also love the Imperial War Museum which surprises with the second largest collection of British art after the Tate, all themed around war – it still commissions War Artists and shows their work.


The Fish tank in the Berlin Radisson Blu hotel

10) Any other question I like to answer?

[Silence]

My take:

A couple of years ago I was able to lure Patrick over to The Hague to inspect my Haagsche Suites. Only because he had scheduled to review another hotel in The Hague, he finally gave in to my persistence and came. Although (off course) I knew we had done a good job, his prize really surprised me, especially because I find that our big brother competitor here in The Hague had done a good job with their renovation. Patrick also wrote our first review on TripAdvisor. That made us number 1 hotel of The Hague for a long time. We fell back when the TripAdvisor review algorithm began to chime in with putting more value to recent reviews than old reviews. Currently we’re back on number 3 after a long period of neglect on my part.
So a threefold thank you now to you Patrick:

  1. For giving in to my persistence and writing a very thorough review of our small hotel.
  2. For writing our first ever TripAdvisor review
  3. For writing this wonderful interview and surprising me with even more prize.

This keeps the small struggling luxury hotelier going :-)
And:
I do love your photography and certainly will take you on your invitation for a good English pub bite!

The Roger Smith Hotel Case

Chris Brogan about the Roger Smith Hotel case at the Web 2.0 conference (Web 2 Expo).

Update

Some quotes of Chris Brogan in this presentation:

  • Use Twitter Search. It’s a gold mine!
  • I had to be in New York City and asked on twitter: “Where should I stay?” Two well known twitterati answered: “The Roger Smith hotel” and then The Roger Smith hotel answered itself: “We would love to welcome you. We have a blogger Special” They reached out to me….
  • Look at the Four Seasons Hotel a couple of doors from The Roger Smith Hotel and compare the (lack of) action there with the action at the Roger Smith Hotel.
  • Sometimes the management and the Doorman of the Four Seasons have a look outside and wonder how The Roger Smith succeeds in getting so much more action than they are able to get. The answer is that Roger Smith has a live voice, communicating with us on the social platforms.
  • Listen 12 times more that talk. Talk about other people 12 times more than about your self. You get so much more back than when you broadcast only.
  • Ask yourself. How do we share?
  • How do we extend experiences and relationships?
  • How do we collaborate?
  • How do we build relationships that yield?
  • Do not go the road that is already there, but make a new road..
  • And don’t forget to check out Brogan’s Case Study links at Del.icio.us

Via Etourism.

Note this was Posted by Chris November 20, 2009. I wonder how he would look at Facebook now…

The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook

In view of this:The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook.

Just do this:Contemplating FaceBook Hara-Kiri | ZDNet commit facebook suicide?

And again I pressed the publish button in stead of the save button. Hope the new version of WordPress will change that.

Paginator – Probably the best WordPress Page Navigation Plugin for the Thesis Theme

For me easy navigation of a blog is a very important part of blogging.

I’ve had a page navigation plugin here that showed the blog pages both before and after the posts that I have on a page or blog category. The problem with the plugin was that a newer version interfered on several levels with the blog and I had to keep an older version, but that older version also interfered with post editing. I really had to get rid of it and replace it with something else.

I’ve found another and clever way of page navigation: Not only via page numbers, but also via a scrolling slider. I thank Famous Bloggers Net for pointing me in the right direction. The plugin is the Paginator.

While using my prior pagination plugin I came to the conclusion that I used the top pagination much more frequent than the the bottom one. Other than Famous Bloggers does I would suggest to download the plugin via add a plugin in your WordPress dashboard and put the following code in the Thesis Hook Before Content:

< ?php if(function_exists ('wp_paginator')) {wp_paginator ();}?>

Don’t forget to check the “execute PHP on this hook” button.

Also don’t forget to put a number in the number of pages for the Paginator setting.

In this way you leave the Thesis navigation at the bottom in tact and you have a nifty navigation tool on top of your pages and categories.

Update
Probably I’m the only one that uses this feature the most on this blog. I still like it, but there is one caveat. If you are monitoring broken links with Google Webmaster tools you’ll notice the typical error that each first page does not exist…\

Last edited on September 7, 2010 at 9:47 am

Can you Build a Hotel Website solely based on WordPress software (2)?


I believe you can, and actually I believe this is the only way a small hotel or Bed and Breakfast should do it!

I’ve seen it being done and I’m in the process of doing it myself, albeit in a more or less triple jumpy way.

I’ve announced this as My Main Project for 2010 already in January. Therefor this is number 2 in what will become a mini series.

However I had started a lot earlier with a post Haagsche Suites – At your service. That post didn’t come into existence than after various trial and errors with installing the WordPress Software, various updates and an unfortunate migration of the site to another server. If you like, you can read What is slowing down the Site Transition?.

The major jump forward (or should I say giant or quantum leap forward?) dates from last week and past weekend and is fourfold now:

  1. I use the booking engine of Hoteliers.com for guests to book my suites. Last week with their help I finally managed to take the main hurdle. I wanted availability viewable from every page on the hotel site. Now the widget opens in the main body of the site and is easy readable. However, the downside is that I cannot use any other widget than that, at least no other widget that uses an IFrame, because both wouldn’t work anymore.
    Nevertheless: I believe every hotel should consider using Hoteliers.com They provide very good value for money and are a good counter balance to the other parties on the web who (re)sell your hotel rooms on the commission model. They are awfully costly for the hoteliers. In addition I believe those commission based room (re) sellers are among the largest advertisers on Google who make the fat company fatter and fatter. But I will go deeper into this issue in a separate post
  2. With the release and installation of Thesis Theme version 1.7 of DIY Themes it is much easier to create drop down menus to make navigation of your site simpler for your site visitors. However, I do hope with version 2 they will come up with alternative navigation possibilities, as it is my experience that users do not always understand drop down menues.
  3. In addition Thesis version 1.7 is written for optimal speeding up the load time of your site or blog and there is no other theme alike for fine tuning your site for SEO.
  4. Darren Cronian of Travelrants pointed me again to the Nexgen Gallery plugin for WordPress by Alex Rabe. I had kicked it out earlier, because it didn’t go well with the PHP – MySQL version of my service provider. Now it works fine. I have played around with the size of the thumbnails extensively: As long as it took to get a balance between loading time and visibility of the thumbs, because I believe a homepage should not be packed with images and other stuff. It should be the easily navigable point of entry to my little empire.

Speed Matters
I’m proud the landing page Haagsche Suites takes only 1.43 seconds to load.
I measure the speed with a FireFox addon, Firebug 1.5.3, a nifty little tool every Blogger should have. Not only does it show speed, but it also gives errors. Firebug also tells me I should do away with all those widgets that load faces, little avatars of those who visit my sites. I love to put faces to the visitors of my sites, but “No” Firebus says “You should kick them out”.
Therefore I have taken away already several of such time consuming widgets from here like MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog and some more I already forgot. Recently I found a nifty new widget on the BlogCatalog Site.
I have also taken away the Google Friends widget, in one way or another Google doesn’t succeed in being socially acceptable. Buzz Failed in my opinion and Google friends doesn’t do a lot either and takes tremendous amounts of time to load. Face Book on the contrary made a quantum leap forward wit it’s I’Like program, but the widgets I use here are also much to time consuming.

Final observation:
During the last couple of weeks I’ve been experimenting with another nice WordPress Plugin, Link Within which gives your readers suggestions for similar posts combined with little thumbs of those posts. My conclusion is that I will get rid of it again, as it costs too much time to load and isn’t as to the point as the similar posts plugin.

Update:
I thought to provide some good examples of blog based hotel sites for your consideration:

  • Chanters Lodge by @Richard Chanters does a good job with a self hosted blogspot based hotel site. He’s a frontrunner as he started out very early at the now closed Yahoo “platform”.
  • I mentioned the Witt Istanbul earlier here.Now they seem to have moved their blog part somewhere else. Curious to know why, but what a stylish site!
  • I found the Caro Hotel in Romania
  • Umi Hotels in Brighton, UK
  • Hotel Hana Maui

More will follow if and when you or I discover them.