Dear Hoteliers: It's the Lighting, Stupid. By Jabeen Bhatti ~ Weekly Exclusive - Views On The Latest Trends Monday, 26th May 2014
Exclusive Feature: It's a small thing but one with large reverberations – the light bulb and it astounds me how many hoteliers fail to pay attention to this tiny but powerful necessity;
Because failing to do so can mean the difference between a happy guest that recommends your hotel and one that doesn't come back.
And yet, so many just get it so wrong.
On a recent multi-country trip to Asia, I stayed in a guesthouse in Afghanistan. This was a working trip and that means I needed decent lighting. But out of the room's three light fixtures, one desk lamp worked and the other, a light bulb dangling straight from the wall, looked dangerous so I chose not to use it – never mind the fact that it was green.
As a result, it was difficult for me to transcribe notes onto my computer as they were hard to read in the dim light. And forget reading in bed, there was no way to do that without a book light. It was even tougher to find what I wanted among my suitcase given that most of my clothes were black.
It was the opposite problem at a small hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan. The lighting was so garish – the hated white fluorescent light – that I flicked most of them off, and only used a small bedside light that was yellow (I made the manager bring me another small lamp from another room to give my quarters balance) and left the soft light in the bathroom on for extra light. At least here, I could chose to turn off the bright overhead lights and turn them on when I wanted to find something in my suitcase.
While both of these were not luxury or boutique hotels, and maybe they were trying to save energy or money or both, even higher end places get it wrong.
At a beautifully appointed boutique hotel in Petra, Jordan, all the lights were white bulbs in designer lamps. Nothing kills the ambiance or comfort level of a room faster than white light. Yellow is softer, and yet so many hotel owners opt for white. I really don't understand why. Is white cool these days?
I stayed at Petra for a very short time so I did nothing. But on a longer trip to Tunisia a few years ago, I actually bought yellow bulbs in a grocery store and replaced the white ones around the room for the duration of my stay. Then I worked and read to my heart's content, happy in this otherwise fabulous room.
I did wonder afterward what the room cleaners thought after I left – when they discovered perfectly good light bulbs in the closet, not the normal item left behind by guests.
Obviously, high-end hotels have better resources than budget hotels to splurge on designer lightening and of course fluorescent lights are cheaper. Still, that doesn't excuse the lack of seeming thought over lighting completely – I have the feeling hotel owners don't understand their guests or their needs on this issue.
But they need to, so some advice: Taking in individual preferences, some people will prefer white overhead lights. Others will appreciate a few lamps around night tables they can operate with yellow bulbs as they need them. You can have both, and cheaply.
So I say compromise: put in lamps with yellow lighting (at least three) and have one bright overhead light.
And please, once you have lamps, please check the light bulbs on a regular basis. I can't tell you how often a light bulb has blown and I have had to call down to the front desk. In Oman, one hotel receptionist told me, "sorry, we can't replace them – we have to wait for those bulbs from Dubai." Huh??? Why would you put in light fixtures using bulbs not even available locally?
And please no red, green or blue bulbs please.
So, pay attention to the light bulb. If you do, you will have a much happier guest. Like me, in Lahore at a luxury apartment hotel a few months ago. The lighting worked, and it was sublime, along with most everything else. It was clearly thought-through. And as a result, I was sad to check out.
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Jabeen Bhatti is a reporter and editor in Berlin, Germany. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, she has spent most of her career in hard news and currently manages the international journalism organization, Associated Reporters Abroad (ARA). She gets out of Berlin whenever she can, enjoying local nibbles everywhere and finding the perfect hotel room many times over.
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