Anthony Melchiorri takes no prisoners when it comes to the hotel business. As the star of Travel Channel’s new Hotel Impossible, he’s equal parts interior designer, marketer, and no-nonsense business consultant for various establishments that are on their way to the hospitality morgue.
Armed with a considerable and prestigious history as a noted hotelier - as well as an obviously deep well of ambition and vision for the future - he takes viewers along for the ride as he overhauls all aspects of a number of hotel horrors and invests the time to take them from vacancy to va-va-voom.
In preparation for his new show’s premiere on Monday, April 9th at 10pm on Travel Channel, this ambitious but down-to-earth guy took a few moments out of his day to sit down with me and discuss everything from his personal inspiration, to his tips for travelers of all ages. So read on and then be sure to tune in on Monday for Anthony's TV debut on Travel:
When you were 29, you were the general manager of the Lucerne - what kind of background did you have that kick-started your career so strongly?
“I was in the Air Force for 4 and a half years and I had some really good colonels who went on to become general, and actually [when I was attached to an Army base] in Honduras I worked with a gentleman who became the director of leadership at West Point and - I don’t think I’ve ever told this story - one day he said to me, “give a little bit more and you’ll go a lot further.” And I never forgot those words - they were very impactful in my life. So whether it be with a guest or with an employee, I always do a little bit more than anyone else would think about.
“The things they’re doing in hotels today I was doing when I was 29 at the Lucerne. . . Even when I was back at the Algonquin, everybody was charging for WiFi, and the owner said, ‘We need to charge for WiFi, too . . . everyone else is doing it.’ And I said, ‘Well, Dorothy Parker and the Round Table . . . when they came in to the hotel back in the 1900s and they wrote for The New Yorker, they wrote for all these magazines around the country, they asked for a pen, we gave them a pen, and they wrote their story. Writers still come to the Algonquin today but they just happen to write on laptops that they need internet access for, and I think that should be free because that’s part of our history.’ It was just a little bit more than what our competition was doing . . . and [that’s how] you really become a standout.”
Booking over the internet can be tough - what are your top tips for getting the best and most realistic value for your money?
- Well, what you want to do first is see when your travel dates are - obviously, if kids are out of school, you’re going to be traveling in peak times - so if you can make your arrangements where you’re not traveling in peak times, you’re going to get better rates.
- So look at the websites, the third parties, the Expedias, look at the best pricing, but also look at the reviews. Every single day of my life people say to me, ‘the reviews online aren’t real - hotels and restaurants just put them there.’ That’s completely untrue. 99% of reviews that are good are true.
- When I travel, I look at the reviews very carefully, look at the pricing, obviously, and then
what I do is call the front desk and make sure the rate I see online is the rate I can get. Always book with the hotel’s reservation website . . . because typically you’ll get the best room rate.
- I don’t think guests understand the difference between Priceline and Expedia. Priceline is an opaque channel, which means you can’t see their rates on the internet - you have to give your credit card information and confirm that you’ll book with Priceline no matter what hotel they show you, at the rate you request. The reason that’s important - and this is kind of an insider thing - is we won’t give Priceline a rate until we figure out the economy for that room is quiet or we screwed up with our revenue management skills and now tonight or tomorrow we have 30 rooms to sell. So if my room goes for $400, I may give Priceline $129 because I’d rather have 30 rooms booked than go down with those 30 rooms empty. Now, that’s not something we typically talk about in our industry, but it’s only Priceline and the opaque channels we do that with, because we don’t want our competitors to see when they go online that we’re selling those kind of rates, but we all do it.
Since I imagine traveling at 25 is a little different than traveling at 55, are there any tips you have for 20-something travelers in particular?
“Social media is very important for [twentysomethings] who are traveling. If you have a hotel that’s very connected to social media, they get it. That means that hotel experience is going to be good for you because they get what’s going on. Also, you get great promotions on social media and if they have social media, they probably have a [mobile-friendly] website so you can book online from your smartphone. Especially if you aren’t traveling with kids, really can try new things and aren’t tied to ‘I need a refrigerator in the room’ or ‘I need a bigger suite,’ if you just want a hip place, this is the way to go. If you look for that, you’re probably going to find something a bit more stylish.”