Hotelier and TV presenter Alex Polizzi talks to Chloe Berman ahead of her appearance at Ace's Columbus Day
Where do you go on holiday and have you ever been on a cruise?
I’ve never been on a cruise, which seems like incredible short-sightedness. It’s not from an anathema to cruising, it has just never occurred to me. My favourite holiday was in Saint Lucia – it was a perfect combination of good but simple food, and beautiful surroundings.
I’ve grown up with my mother who is a design expert – often I go into a hotel and rear back in horror – but The Jalousie Plantation was just how you want a hotel in the Caribbean to look.
How do you book your holidays?
I always use Travelwise in Muswell Hill, London. I have an agent who never lets me down. I had a complicated honeymoon in Italy and she set that up for me – she always comes up with suggestions and if things go wrong she’s always very supportive. I’m a great believer in using a professional – anyone can get on the internet.
What do you think of how travel agencies present themselves?
There are a couple of travel agencies in Clapham I walk past but I’ve never walked into because they present themselves so badly.
Agents, a bit like estate agents, haven’t learnt that when someone comes in you have to make eye contact and say how can I help you? And, like estate agents, there’s a certain amount of saying ‘don’t worry it will be fine’ – even if they haven’t got what you want.
Honesty is missing in so many aspects of our lives and good customer service is so rare – you want someone who really cares about whether you enjoy your holiday.
What do you think of the growth of online hotel reviews?
I’m not a complete fan. TripAdvisor makes it hard for people [hoteliers] to respond to bad reviews. There are lots of hoops to jump through. Bad reviews appear very quickly and responses take a long time to put up.
Everyone’s a critic now. There is a complete lack of measure. It’s a drama if a hotel doesn’t have the right type of tea or if there’s no porter at a two-star hotel.
I’m sorry more people don’t use the traditional method of complaining when they are there – the hotel will normally sort things out if they have the chance.
Do you think the Olympics has benefited the British hospitality industry?
Unless you had block bookings it has been empty in London and in Weymouth where the sailing was. Restaurants have had the worst August in living memory and that’s because central London hotels haven’t been busy.
I met an estate agent who has had a fantastic summer – it seems that people rented out rooms in flats instead of staying in hotels.
Everyone is very conscious of their budget and has cut their cloth accordingly.
You have visited hundreds of hotels as the Hotel Inspector – what are your pet hates?
I still can’t believe how many hotels fail the cleanliness test. You walk in somewhere mucky and it makes you think people don’t care.
In one hotel I had to share a bathroom with 14 men!
My advice to hotels is that it’s all about honesty. Don’t sell yourself as luxury if you’re not – there’s a place for everything.
People are bored of being upsold. I advise hotels to under-promise and over-deliver.
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