The wacky world of hospitality

2013-01-19 00:00

HOTEL staff are a breed who have been accustomed to dealing with strange requests, like the guest who had to have a fish tank in her room to help her sleep and the naked man who asked the front office to buy him some underwear.

Hotels and B&Bs across the province have drawn the blinds on a busy time, accommodating guests from all parts of the country during the summer holidays.

Several hotel managers and executives in KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere shared their wacky and quirky experiences with Weekend Witness.

Nicholas Barenblatt, group marketing and advertising manager with Protea Hotels, said the group’s staff members had in most cases accommodated guests’ preferences — even the strange requests.

He said a businessman at a Durban hotel once asked staff to source a fortune teller to help him conclude a business deal.

A guest at a Cape Town hotel asked for a fish tank to be placed in her room so that she could sleep well. “The staff made a plan to buy a bowl and put a goldfish in it. It became so popular with guests that it is still used. Each guest gives the fish a name.”

Kaliq Essop, general manager of Suncoast Towers, told Weekend Witness that they have had several unusual requests. He said that in one instance, a guest brought along a live chicken for the chef to cook. In another case, a guest wanted the chef to cook “walkie talkies” (chicken feet).

Paul Laing, the general manager of Redlands Hotel, said guests from the United States recently requested a certain range of spirits to be stocked in their mini bars. He was able to source them on the understanding that the guests would be charged even if they were not consumed.

“Not one of the requested spirits was touched, but the guests were happy that we had made the effort,” Laing said.

He told of a wealthy foreign guest at another establishment he worked for who sent his private plane back home for his favourite pair of shoes.

Barenblatt said that although celebrities and other high-profile guests tended to have quirky tastes, business travellers and the family and leisure market could also be picky.

“Provided that it is legal, we’ll help.”

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