Lara Dunston asked us recently how we went about finding the wow-inducing boutique hotels in our collection. Juliet has been blogging about what checkboxes a hotel has to tick before it gets into the Smith collection (and a darned fine job she did too), but that doesn’t explain how we’ve got to the front desk in the first place. So how do we research our hotels?
Sadly (for us), the answer’s not as straightforward as ‘Google’. A hotel can come to our attention in any number of ways. Here’s an entirely non-comprehensive list of some of them.
• Smith staff Les Sardines aux Yeux Bleus owes its presence on the Smith site to our own Lucy, who stumbled on it while B&B-hopping in the sunny South of France, owing to a chance encounter with a sunflower salesman in an Uzès marketplace. Amber found Aleenta Phang Nga (and through it Aleenta Hua Hin) while holidaying in Thailand. The insanely sexy Greek-island resort of Mykonos Grace was one of Aline’s finds.
• Smith members Our members can be very vocal about what they like (as well as what they don’t!) and regularly submit hotel recommendations from their own travels. Gidleigh Park, for example, was mentioned by one of our Goldsmith members in a chat with our travel concierge and, two months later, was introduced into our UK collection. All members’ recommendations are followed up, and are checked out by the Smith team to see whether they’re up to scratch (Smith members are a discerning bunch, so most of the time they are).
• Hoteliers – Not just recommending their own hotel – although, of course, many do – but often drawing our attention to other hotels in the same area that they’re on friendly terms with. Riad Farnatchi and Noir D’Ivoire in Marrakech frequently send custom in each other’s direction.
• PR It’s inevitable and unavoidable, but once we’ve cut through the fluff and garnish of the average press release, we often come across hotels worth featuring (plus of course, a fair few which send the Smith office into fits of giggles). Courtyard at Noir D’Ivoire, Marrakech
• The media Newspaper travel sections invariably feature hotel reviews, magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar and Condé Nast traveller are crammed with glossy pics of stylish hideaways, the blogosphere is alive with hotel chatter (check out our blogroll to see whose jib we like the cut of), and user-generated sites such tripadvisor mean that you can barely go online for a minute without tripping over some breathless boutique-hotel recommendation or other. What we have to do at Smith is look at each on in depth, do all the supplementary research we can, visit the hotel, and apply Juliet’s magic formula.
• Smith spies We have a mini-army of informants scattered around the world, who are charged with keeping their finger on the pulse of every city, town or serene backwater that appears in our collection. If a new hotel opens, we know about it, and our hotel-hunting team (in the shape of Katy and Mary) is on the case faster than you can say ‘complimentary minibar’).
• Other guides We could be all superior and pretend we didn’t browse through Hip Hotels, Chic Retreats and the ilk, but to be honest, we be stupid if we didn’t. We don’t agree with all the hotels they choose to include – if we did, there’d be no point in us existing – but if they feature a hotel that has ‘Smith’ written all over it – as in the case of, say, Cowley Manor or Hotel Endsleigh – we’re definitely going to investigate further. The unreliability of travel guides and misleadingly glossy hotel brochures was what inspired Mr & Mrs Smith in the first place.
• This blog It’s still fairly early days, but if you’ve come across a Smith-ish boutique hotel on your travels and want to tell us about it, don’t be coy. Any recommendations?