Industry Update
Opinion Article15 December 2015

How Hotels Can Surprise and Delight on a Budget

Bronwyn White of says 2-3-star hotels should learn from a gem of a hotel discovery she made while in Palm Springs, California

By Bronwyn White, Travel & Tourism Market Researcher at

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I travelled all the way from Australia to Los Angeles recently for work and pleasure mixed together. As a travel industry professional, I get to experience travel and tourism product from across the spectrum, from budget to deluxe. It is the mid-range 2 to 3 star hotels and motels I find the most uninspiring and disappointing. But it doesn't have to be like this.

Unfortunately, budget hotels are often managed by tired couples or staff who specialize in managing economy hotels. Instead of surprise and delight, they tend to frustrate and disappoint.

However, at the In the A Place In The Sun Hotel in Palm Springs a one-hour drive from LA, I found myself a little gem. Other hotels around the world should learn from it. Here's why.

1. We were greeted with a smile. Robert at the check-in desk has been doing the job for the last seven years. Every day was still a discovery for him. He genuinely seemed to like people and be interested in not just me, but other people around as well.

2. They were geniuses in the use of space. We booked the smallest, cheapest room in the hotel. They turned what used to be a cupboard/wardrobe space into a fridge, microwave, basin, cook-top facility with toaster, kettle, pots, pans and cooking utensils.

3. Late check-out. We have all heard this one. "You can't have a late check-out because the cleaners are coming." We actually didn't ask for late check-out. We thought it might be nice to head out and go sightseeing in the morning and have a swim in the pool before we headed back to LA. Robert said, "You know what, no one is staying in your room tonight, I will just tell the cleaners to clean it tomorrow, so if you want to have a shower after your swim, that's fine."

4. Impeccable presentation. The hotel was built in the 1950s. Elizabeth Taylor stayed there when she filmed A Place in The Sun with Montgomery Clift. It is old, but it is impeccable. It was clean. I find that most hotels at this level have serious problems with cleanliness. Not here.

5. Modern TV. We had a great TV that was modern and wall mounted to save space. Apart from the bedspreads, nothing makes a room feel tired and cheap faster than an aged TV. TVs are inexpensive nowadays – keep them contemporary.

6. Well maintained grounds and pool. This is where the biggest WOW factor was for us. The grounds were beautiful. The pool area was tidy and clean and the pool furniture was well maintained. I enjoyed spending time poolside.

7. Free Wi-Fi. All over the USA, budget hotels have free Wi-Fi. In many countries they skimp with Wi-Fi, even 5-star hotels. Not here.

8. Continental breakfast was complimentary. It's amazing what some coffee, toast and a whole piece of fruit can do to make you happy. Served by the pool. Perfect.

9. It's tribal. Repeat and long-term stays are normal at A Place In the Sun. People make lifetime friends with each other here. Management do all they can to promote this. Management ensure that repeat visitors get the same rooms, if they wish. Communal areas are maintained in such a way that guests want to 'hang out' there for breakfast and around the pool all day. Life-long friendships are made there.

What was smart about the hotel managers was that they clearly knew who their market was. They had huge repeat, long-stay and referral business. They ran the place efficiently with long-term vision and attention to detail.

What a wonderful find in Palm Springs. We loved everything about the Palm Springs area, especially this lovely little hotel. There are plenty of places to hangout at A Place in The Sun.

Bronwyn White

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