“On behalf of the HOTEL AND TRAVEL INSIGHT team, I would like to welcome you to our website.

It was 1967 when I put my nose through the revolving door of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan for the very first time. I was only six years old then, completely inexperienced and didn’t know what to expect. At that time, the limousines on 5th Avenue still had tail fins, people were dressed elegantly like Audrey Hepburn or Cary Grant and a doorman with top hat greeted me graciously with a genuine smile »Welcome to the Plaza, young man«.

I followed my father, whom I was accompanying on a business trip after the Expo ’67 in Montreal, shyly and made sure I stayed on his tail. As soon as I entered and my eyes had adjusted from the bright daylight outside to the dim light in the lobby, the Plaza had me under its spell.

This is what I remember: the passages and corridors with their chandeliers and thick carpets seemed astoundingly cosy. Even though many people were bustling around the place, everything was very quiet and dimmed. I was not allowed to enter the smoky Plaza’s Oak Room (of course not) but I had a glance of businessmen with white collars and thin ties, drinking martinis. In the Palm Court somebody was playing the piano and a lonely voluptuous lady ate her way through a plate of petit fours.

The most intense memory is the eye contact with the concierge. Without interrupting his work, he never lost sight of me, and his eyes seemed to express everything the Plaza was. They looked interested, sizing me up, slightly amused, almost conspiring. And not at all arrogant or negative, considering the little squirt that I was. His look made me feel both soothed and disturbed, somehow embraced and welcomed.

In the past 50 years not only the Plaza and the entire world of travel have changed dramatically around the world, but also the guests’ demands. The resorts of Aman, Soneva, Six Senses, Four Seasons Ritz-Carlton and Rocco Forte have redefined luxury and comfort, but also “spoilt” us for ever. That’s what I think somehow. With every opening of a new spa or boutique hotel, my demands and my expectations grow, and the level of standards for interior design and service is raised by the visionaries of the hotel industry year by year.

Still there is a thread that continues through all the years, a style that prevails in all really great hotels. It is not only a matter of a design, decor, cuisine or gracious service but a certain frame of mind and an indefinable geniality that separates them from the merely ordinary.

Some traditional properties live off ceremonies and their glamorous past. Nobody wants to change that. “Grandes Dames” of the hotel trade, where a formal ambience is suitable, a slightly arrogant welcome, a distinctly stiff service and décor – which, for the life of me, I wouldn’t want in my house – which all add up to, as the hotel brochure puts it, an “experience of a lifetime”. For me this experience of life, formerly represented by the Grand Hotels, does not exist any more, even after extensive renovations, as performed in the Adlon in Berlin.

The grand Suvretta House in St. Moritz or the Palace in Montreux also belong to that category. The Baur au Lac in Zurich, the Carlton in Cannes, the Brenners in Baden-Baden, the Dorchester in London or the Alvear Palace in Buenos Aires. Nevertheless, I am sure that there are still many travellers who are only happy in those hotels and to whom it is part of the pleasure to either be seen or be treated in a blasé way.

On the contrary, the great hotels and and hideaway retreats in the world are quite often unknown to package travellers, and – just like their well travelled guests – relatively casual. The staff are not arrogant but professional, warm, friendly and unassuming. The service is discreet but always present and ready to fulfil even the most unusual requests. The decor is tasteful, individual and typical of the country. The cuisine is regional, seasonal, delightful or at least talented. Everything seems to be completely under control, almost effortless, without giving even a glimpse of the logistical high performance and hard work backstage

In travel, luxury is one of the hardest areas to define. Naturally, every good hotel management tries to spoil us with its own, unmistakable style. Be it stunning hi-tech, sumptuous decorations, a relaxing health and spa area, stylish bathroom amenities or simply home-made jams for breakfast. However, I do not regard a spa as a luxury. Nor am I particulary impressed with popular diversions and ‘special’ treats – cocktails on arrival, indoor parking, complimentary iPads, bathrobes, lavatory paper folded into a triangular point, etc. All this is simply hotelkeeping rigmarole and pretty much regarded as standard by the experienced traveller.

True luxury is rather more difficult to capture. Stunning views, a restrained elegant decor, comfort, security, filled out and ready-to-sign check-in forms, attentive personnel without a robotic “have a nice day” attitude and fresh and aromatic cuisine would certainly be some of the things that distinguish a great place from the merely adequate.

To me it is the atmosphere of the hotel, the direct warmth radiating from it, the level of excellence and flexibility, lots of space, a bar filled with a friendly murmur and easy-going conversation and the helpful attitude of the staff that make a really good hotel.

If somebody had told me that stepping into the Plaza in the Sixties would lay the foundation stone for a consulting company in the hospitality industry many years later, I probably would not have believed it. I am neither a habitué nor a member of the jet set. Generally my team and I travel incognito, neither known nor recognised. Still I have a special qualification for my analytic consulting work and industry insight: a long time ago, when I was young and inexperienced, I recognised the first impression of the Plaza as it was in its time – the epitome of an outstanding hotel that spoke for itself. That was the very moment my passion for travel and the world’s greatest hotels was born.

As the world’s problems get tougher, jobs get more complicated and expectations of guests grow, the connections we make will be more important than ever.  Whether you are visiting HOTEL AND TRAVEL INSIGHT for the first time, are already a valued client or we have previously worked together, we hope our website gives you the opportunity to learn more about our services, market perspective and incredible people.

If there is anything that we can do to enhance your business and support your growth, we would like to hear from you.
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Cy Schultze

Founder and CEO

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