Couchfish: Asking the right questions

Couchfish: Asking the right questions

Give guests the tools to make hotels change

Just a short entry today as I got my second vaccine shot yesterday and I feel like I’ve been kicked by a horse.

The other day I came across a Travel & Leisure story titled “Top 10 Southeast Asia Resort Hotels”. If you’d like to read it, click here, then close both pop-ups, the autoplay video and the full-screen interstitial, and you should be set.

The list is typical of Travel & Leisure—predictable and forgettable—no doubt great for their advertising executives though. Before closing the window, I noticed each property had a score out of one hundred. The top-rated hotel, the Six Senses Con Dao in Vietnam, scored 96.21. How are they scored I wondered? I clicked through to the Travel & Leisure methodology.

The only leakage here is the roof. Literally. Ko Chang Noi. Photo: David Luekens.

Travel & Leisure explain hotels were rated on location, rooms/facilities, food, service and value.

That’s it.

This struck me as not good enough and I tweeted, saying:

“Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value” <- I guess they forgot to ask about sustainability, environmental impact, relationship with local communities, legality, leakages, and if they obeyed build back laws…

How hard would it have been to ask readers to vote on these concepts as well? Or even just one or two of them? You could argue that having an informed opinion on sustainability, environmental impact, leakages or legality is beyond the average guest ... but one doesn’t need to be a chef to rate the food, or an architect to rate the rooms.

It is a complete cop-out.

Publishers running competitions like this should add these questions. It would in turn encourage properties to make the information available to guests.

We use locally-grown papaya in the som tam. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

Resorts are happy to tell you they don’t use plastic straws. Not so much that they had to import 600 air-con units and pool pumps for their private pool villas.

It isn’t like they don’t know this information. They’re happy to publish the scoop on them using low-energy lightbulbs after all. Why not add to that, the percentage of labour sourced locally? Their carbon footprint? Hell, they could go wild and crazy and supply the legal status of their land title.

Some places already do this in bits and pieces. Some resorts have admirable community programs for example. To my mind though, a uniform datasheet presenting the whole picture, warts and all, would be a great step forward.

Want hot water? Fill a black rubber bag (yes, imported) full of water and leave it in the sun all day. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

You don’t need to cast your mind back far to recall when guests didn’t ask about light bulbs, wastewater or plastic straws. Now they do. Over time awareness grew—dragging hotels, sometimes kicking and screaming—along with it.

Help guests figure out questions worth asking.

And when a hotel can’t or won’t answer the question—go elsewhere.

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Thank you!

The Couchfish podcast. Following a day by day itinerary through Southeast Asia—for all those people stranded on their couch.