News & Reviews News When is the best time to visit a new hotel?

I’ve always loved Betteridge’s law of headlines.  Knowing it will save you a lot of time avoiding clickbait.  But in this case, I will try to answer the actual question.  Maybe.  Let’s at least try.

What to expect from new hotels

Oh, the thrill of venturing into a new hotel where the paint is barely drying.  The glittering facade often masks the reality that the place runs like it’s held together by duct tape, good intentions and lots of tears.  I struggle to think of any upside in going to a new hotel other than experiencing something new and shiny and being able to metaphorically dump on your peasant friends who haven’t yet been.  The downsides are numerous.  The service feels like it’s still in rehearsal, the infrastructure is in beta mode, and the facilities are rarely open or finished.  The food is still finding its feet, you’re charged premium prices for the privilege of being a guinea pig, and at resorts, the landscape is bare.  Basically, it’s like buying a new car and knowing the second you drive it out of the showroom, it’s lost 20% of its value, but you still drive it around like a smug twat.  And then it breaks down on the way home.  I speak from experience.

When should I (my travel agent) go to a new hotel?

As I often tell my therapist, that’s none of your business.

Unlike most travel agents, I write reviews.  Your travel agent will hate it and tell their clients; I’ll hate it and tell everyone.  Pretty sure that makes me more of a man.

My job is to keep up with new hotel openings, but I also don’t want to be there so early that I’m completely tainted by them, nor too late that I know nothing and look like an owl being interrogated at a spelling bee.  I try to be fair.  Ok, sometimes. When the press goes, they sometimes have access before the hotel even opens, and the rest all clamour around to try and get in as soon as possible thereafter.

I recently stayed at Peninsula London, where the service was shoddy.  They’re waving the ‘soft opening’ flag, but after nearly five months and charging an arm and a leg, I’m not buying that.  I can tell all I need about the property from the hard product, but I appreciate the soft product is still a work in progress, and I will give them another chance, likely later this year.  Does that make my initial stay worthless?  I don’t think so, notably because they responded positively to the feedback, which says a lot.  It also tells me whilst I will never love the hotel, I understand which clients might.

Next week, we’re hitting up Raffles OWO, six months post its grand opening, darting to One&Only Kea Island just three weeks into its life, and checking out The Emory a mere ten days after it welcomes its first guests.  What does the science say about this?  Nothing, because even scientists have better things to do.  What I say is this: mostly, that is stupid.

The best time to visit a new hotel is like most questions, with the answer being “It depends”.  Within six to twelve months of opening, I think it is a fair time to expect them to iron out the issues.  The exceptions are properties where they’re trying something so new, everything around it sucks, like White Desert, where taking a dump was once considered the luxury.  I hated Miavana when it first opened for many reasons, but the journey to get there was a nightmare.  Feedback is now very positive, so I’ll return soon to give it another go.

In an ideal world we would wait longer to go to some new hotel openings, but when you’re in the area it’s rude not to drop by.

When should you go to a new hotel?

At Bulgari Rome, we sent the very first guests, who came back with glowing feedback.  So, I decided to check it out myself a few months later and found it nearly flawless.  This is the rarest of examples.  Generally, I would avoid recommending anyone go to a hotel within the first year unless they are just absolutely desperate to experience something impossible to witness elsewhere.  Like receiving good service in New York.  Exceptions to this can be hotels owned by the best brands – like Bulgari when they open their Maldives property – but even then, it’s an “it depends” as an artificial island means the terrain is likely to be minimal, and they will need time for the island to feel authentic.

New hotels launch with what they call ‘soft rates’, which is a polite way of saying, “We’re charging you more for the privilege of telling your friends you’re the first to come to our incomplete hotel.”.  The rates are higher, the facilities are rarely finished, and the service leaves a lot to be desired.  As reality kicks in, they adjust to the market and start to bring the rates down.  It’s like a bank robbery where the culprits get whatever they can as fast as possible, regardless of who gets hurt.

In most cases, waiting a year after opening will result in a cheaper, better experience.

What’s your experience with new hotel openings?

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 15th Mar '24

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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