The Rail Holiday Maker
Secret Lives of a Hotel Inspector #1
Here's a travel industry anecdote, a tale of legend that has done the rounds over the years, often embellished but I heard it originally from the horse’s mouth. Close colleagues in the industry will recognise the personality involved and they’ll know I write this with affection for a friend, former colleague and mentor.
During my own early years in travel I worked for a big, famous coach tour company in Leeds that sadly no longer exists. Its Hotel Contracts Manager was a larger than life character. Multilingual, ruddy-faced, fiery, he was a man of some mystery. Continental in origin but when asked where he was from he would always sidestep the question with vagueness. It would seem that his roots lay somewhere along the Swiss-Belgian border. Make of that what you will. He never disclosed the truth. What was he hiding? Anyway, a keen cyclist (was he Belgian?), every year he would pack his bike into his company car and head to the port to drive around Europe for two or three months, hotel to hotel. He would return to Leeds eventually with a box full of signed contracts and the car boot filled with red wine to accompany his bike, no doubt gifted from hotels happy to see him and his contract.
So, “Red Wine Rolf” (I’ve changed his name for anonymity purposes as he is still alive and I do like him a lot) was staying in a Novotel somewhere, I forget where but it isn’t important. As you’ll know, most hotel rooms, particularly in corporate chains, adhere to a similar layout. There’s a bed in the main part of the room and a little corridor with a bathroom to the left or right, and the external bedroom door straight ahead. Well, “Red Wine Rolf”, a man of a certain age and no doubt having imbibed a couple or six clarets, raised himself in the middle of the night for a tinkle. Business done, bleary eyed, he wandered out of the loo. He took a left instead of a right. A right turn would have led back to his warm bed. A left turn led him out through the door. Out into the corridor. Into the public domain. As Rolf rubbed his eyes to see where he had landed in his morning stupor, the door closed behind him, destined not to open again without a key card. But he had no key card. Nor a stitch of clothing to cover his, erm, man of a certain age! A man who had stayed at thousands of hotels in a career dating back to the 1960s found himself ruddy-faced, naked in the corridor of a hotel, the only option being to walk to reception for a new key. After a lifetime of contract wrangling, standing at reception with his accoutrements dangling.
“Erm, can I help you, sir?”