When hotels go wrong, “Hotel Impossible” puts things right

Anthony Melchiorri of "Hotel Impossible"Anthony Melchiorri doesn’t mess around when it comes to hotels. He’s been all over the world and worked in the hotel industry for more than 20 years, and after all of that time, he knows how to spot what’s wrong with a hotel from the second he walks in. He also knows how to put it right. And that’s what he does in his new series for Travel Channel. Hotel Impossible premieres Monday, April 9 at 10pm ET/PT, and has Melchiorri taking charge of situations in the independent boutique hotels and resorts that commission him. And he’s not always Mr. Nice Guy about it.

The first episode of Hotel Impossible has Melchiorri taking on Gurney’s Inn in Montauk, NY. Even as he pulls into the parking lot, he begins finding deficiencies in the property and its service, and by the time a bellman virtually ignores him, he looks like he’s ready to punch somebody in the throat. In one instance, Melchiorri calls a meeting with management for 10am, and no one shows up — not even the owner. (To be fair, the way Melchiorri talks to his clients, I’m not sure I would have been in a hurry to see him, either.) But Melchiorri can justify his method.

“They ask me to provide a service,” he tells me of the hotel owners who call to request his services. “And I will never not get through to an owner. I will ensure that I do everything that I’ve learned over my career about how to manage and talk, and respect people, and also plow through people to get what I want. What I want is what they want — they want their hotel turned around.”

The problems that Melchiorri finds in the properties he visits can run from simple issues of cleanliness and upkeep to larger problems involving poor management. But unsurprisingly, the most consistent problem he finds is communication. “I always say, if the housekeeper and the owner can quote to me the mission statement of the hotel, I don’t have a job — because that means the hotel’s running well,” he explains.

“The disconnect between ownership or leadership, and the housekeeper in the line of employees is usually very surprising to me. That it’s so disconnected that the ownership thinks this is the way the hotel should run, housekeepers are running it this way, and if those two don’t understand the mission of the hotel, that’s what I find most troubling — that communication in the hotel and the direction of a hotel is splintered in a lot of cases. At least in several of the cases that I’ve seen for the show, and every single case that I’ve ever done in my career.”

So what does the host of Hotel Impossible look for? Melchiorri tells me it’s not all that different from what most people would expect from wherever they’re staying.

“People ask me what’s my favorite hotel, and I always say, ‘A well-serviced, clean hotel is my favorite hotel,’” he says. “If you’re a five-star hotel or a three-star hotel, the only thing that should separate you are amenities and maybe size of rooms — not the level of service. A three-star hotel bellman and a five-star hotel bellman is still a human being. And why can’t I train that three-star bellman to treat a guest like a five-star bellman treats a guest? So I always find the thing that’s most troubling is the cleanliness and the service in a hotel. It comes down to the basics. … I’ve never walked into a hotel that’s failing, where cleanliness and service wasn’t an issue.”

With Melchiorri’s radar so finely attuned to finding faults in the hotels he visits both for Hotel Impossible and otherwise, I had to ask how he’s ever able to enjoy going on vacation.

“That’s a great point,” he says. “I’ll put it in perspective: On my honeymoon, about 19 years ago, in Puerto Rico, I had somebody regrouting my bathtub. And my wife turned to me and said, ‘I can’t handle this if I’m going to spend my life with you.’ She said, ‘You’ve got to shut it off.’ And since that day, I’m able to go into a hotel — as long as I’ve done my homework and I know it’s clean. … I can tone it down.”


Photo: Travel Channel