Sunday, January 5, 2014

places and people to remember are travel treasures

The photo you see of the Le Havre rocky port side beach with its azure colored water so clear that it is possible to look down into the rocky depths below is one of my most recent travel treasures, which keeps me from the doldrums during this east coast USA winter of frigid cold, constant snow, and cloud filled days without the sun.

Yet the beginning of 2014 leaves me with travel angst about staying in the US and spending my money in my country this coming year—when compared with prices in the US for similar priced properties, I found that as usual, 3rd and 4th class European chain hotels offer more bang for your buck, even when  you figure the Euro conversion—the cleaning staff are hardworking and consider what they do as integral to the reputation of their employer, and they really know how to clean a hotel room. 

I've stayed at some major US chain hotels with franchise owners that are not representative of the product they franchise, but I know when I go abroad, sight unseen, with a tourism class distinction I can count on receiving what is expected, because there are consequences for not offering the requirements listed.

When I was looking through the notes of  I kept about my recent challenging 24-day travel experience, I found the names of the crew at the Mercure Le Havre Centre Bassin du Commerce—Christophe, Peggy, Gwen, Domineque and Mathew, who were there to help with any problems, also actually cared about my well-being—these are the people I remember in Le Havre who were genuinely devoted to giving the best service, and worthy employees of  the hotel that they strived to make a place of refuge for this weary traveler.

My choice of 4th class chain hotel properties to book during my stay at Red Hook just a few blocks away from the Cunard Brooklyn Port, Germany, France and the UK was a good one—the value of chain hotels is multifold—advance bookings during the off season are usually offered at special prices, also the employees are solicitous and aiming to please.

The Choice Hotels and Mercure properties I stayed at had loyal employees who were well-trained, they granted all the requests that I made, which included additional heating, more pillows, more coffee and tea packets, plus maps and other guides to the surrounding neighborhood—as well they were hotel efficients, and made sure that I was given a paid in full printed bill prior to my departure, better yet, I had no unpleasant surprises re charges for items that I did not authorize.

It's been my experience that chain hotels care more about their reputation, and are interested in maintaining good consumer relations, while the independent small property in Europe may not be as responsive regarding their guest's complaints. 

In a foreign country the laws and cultures differ.  Also what is a complaint to an American may be a slur to another culture, and if there is a dispute about payment and overcharges, the owner of an independent property may be absent which means no immediate solution.  Command of the language is necessary to explain what happened, yet there too it's necessary to contact the right person.  If you are traveling on a schedule, it's best to stay at properties that are reliable, shop in department stores, and eat in restaurants that display menus with set prices for each item, then if tourism classified that will be noted too, which will offer you more quality control.

Then if you are not satisfied because you did not receive what you expected, you can complain to the tourism bureau by letter citing specifics (by e-mail in English). 

For chain hotel complaints, you should always ask for the General Manager of the hotel property, and if they are not available ask for the Manager on duty.   Be persistent, but polite, and don't be intimidated, or accept anything but an immediate meeting to discuss your concerns.  Get the corporate address, which is easily obtainable on the Internet, then contact the chain corporate management, usually the VP of Consumer Relations.

Do be aware that taking a tour in a foreign country means finding out if the tour operator is locally recognized and is tourism accredited—taking tours with independents means you have no guarantee as to what you will be receiving for the price you are paying—and using small independents may also involve transport in substandard vehicles which can be can be hazardous.

Expectations can ruin any vacation, but as I noted above these are the ways to guarantee that at least you can expect no more not comfortable hotels...and in 2014,  I'll discuss more about the ins and outs of traveling with comfort for less dollars.

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