My name is Lizelle and I have the best job in the world. I am one of Klein Collection’s scouts in search of more special places to stay while on holiday or business. To really get a feel for a place, a mere google search and some online research will not do. I personally stay at all the places I am reviewing for at least one night and then try and absorb as much as possible of the environment, talk to the locals, take photographs and jot down my impressions while there.

Lizelle on Wilderness beachSometimes I view imposing award-winning hotels and lodges that I would never recommend to anyone, even if the whole world sing their praises.  They simply do not meet my criteria. ‘Different folks, different strokes’, I guess.  What really bugs one person, like floor-to-ceiling cracks, will fade into oblivion to another, like me. It is important for you to know your reviewer’s priorities and pet peeves to know whether her recommendations would work for you. Let me tell you more about what my favourite establishments do to earn their place on this blog roll.

In short, they all:

Start off on the right foot

The relationship with an establishment starts long before check-in. Telephone manner, email tone, getting back to me when they said they would, and the way they ask for a deposit are all important cues to me.

But probably top of the list at pre-arrival stage is managing expectations. My mantra: The client experience starts with an expectation and ends with an emotion. So many sour relationships could have been avoided by warning travellers about difficult access roads, night noises and renovations-in-process, for example, before they made their booking.

Upon arrival, authentic friendliness and empathy from reception or management drive at least half of the entire lodging experience. People differ hugely around this issue, but I want to feel straight-away that management views me as another potential friend: someone who will keep on coming back.

Pick the right location

Many fine hotels and lodges did not make the cut for me – simply because their location is unfortunate. For example, they were located right on a busy highway or cut off from the heart of the nearest town without offering enough activities on the premises itself to keep me on-site and content for at least 24 hours. I prefer either incredible natural (preferable indigenous) surroundings or a pedestrian-friendly, culturally interesting middle-of-the village-feel to a place.

Create a cosy home-away-from-home suite

The first thing that I look for is a sign of generosity like fresh flowers, fruit, complimentary wine from the area, home-made rusks or significantly more bathroom products than you could possibly use during your stay.

There needs to be plenty of space and natural light flowing in, but the bathroom area should provide sufficient privacy, should one of the travel companions need a little solitude.

I am easily wooed by thoughtful, empathetic design, for example hooks to hang your bag/camera/coat wherever you may need them and sufficient thigh-high working / packing /grooming spaces. It should feel as if the designer traced the typical traveller’s steps inside the suite and pre-empted what would make his life more comfortable.

Add that something special

The more original and differentiated the experience, the better.

Seal the relationship

Like the first impression, the check-out and usher-out experience lingers in my memory for quite a long time. The good-bye should feel relational, not transactional. It’s a good sign if I feel like emailing the hotel the very next week and sending them some of my pictures. This kind of hotel will definitely end up on this blog roll.

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