Having reviewed many hotels, the difference between independent, owner-managed hotels and much bigger brands is very apparent. It’s not that there is a right or wrong to either one, but depending on what you are looking for, one might fit the bill more than the other for certain types of trips.
Owner Managed Hotels
- The hotel often feels more friendly and ‘home from home’.
- The hospitality tends to feel more genuine, like you are a valued guest.
- Individual needs can often be worked around. We recently stayed in La Torre del Visco, Spain with our 2 year old. Not only did the lovely chefs come in early to prepare our daughter her own early dinner, the waiter also arranged a table and tray to be brought to our room so we could enjoy a delicious 4-course menu without worry.
- The attention to detail is often more personal, from wild flowers from the gardens in each room to handpicked artwork on the walls.
- You’re more likely to get personal recommendations of secluded picnic spots, favourite hikes, where the flowers are best at which time of year and where to see the best sunsets from.
- The food is often home-cooked or even home-grown, with menus based on seasonal and locally-bought produce.
- Service may not always be as slick as it could be, either because staff are elsewhere in the hotel or the procedures aren’t regimented.
- Some facilities may not be entirely up to date or they may lack certain technology features we’ve come to rely on, like docking station and large TVs.
- May be less likely to get bigger or more expensive features, e.g.in-room movies or flat screen TVs.
- Locations may be less central and more off the beaten track.
- Remote locations can lead to slow Wi-Fi and poor phone signal.
- You know what you are getting; all the rooms are often quite similar.
- There is often room service and menus are well established.
- There’s often a range of facilities such as a gym, business centre, etc.
- Transport to the hotel is usually easy.
- There are usually plenty of nearby facilities e.g. alternative restaurant choices, tourist attractions.
- The rooms may be good value but extras such as in-room drinks or restaurants are pricey.
- There’s limited scope for adapting to individual needs, staff are there to serve a well-oiled machine more than your whims!
- Everything can feel a little formulaic and mass produced.
- Staff can be impersonal; it’s more likely to be a job rather than a passion which shows in how you are treated as a guest.
- Parking can be expensive.
This article was inspired by La Torre del Visco in Matarranya, Spain. It’s an independent hotel which is part of the Relais & Châteaux association of small luxury and boutique hotels and restaurants managed by their owners. Hotels belonging to Relais & Châteaux retain their own identity and independence yet have to adhere to strict standards in order to represent Relais & Châteaux; this delivers the best of both worlds to the guest.
Other Relais & Châteaux hotels we’ve featured: