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Rooms At The Top (1)

" What makes a good hotel is a personal judgement, it's different for everyone. For me it's service-and a good concierge,' says Anthony Podesta, a US expatriate who runs his own management consultancy firm in Lausanne, Switzerland. 'As a small businessman I probably use hotel services much more than most people. The Plaza-Athenee in Paris has the single best concierge desk of any hotel in western world. There were times when I would just call - whether I was staying in Paris or not - and say, this my problem can you fix it up?'

'In London, I think the Barkeley is the best hotel. One has the sense of having a private flat; there's no hall, no public rooms, no glitter.And also another great concierge,' continues Podesta. 'In Madrid, without a doubt , it's the Ritz, and in Stockholm,if the weather's good, the Grand, as it overlooks the water. In Hamburg, it's the Vier Jahreszeiten and Atlantic and in Zurich I use the Baur au Lac, an excellent hotel,but not the same quality as the Plaza Athenee, the Barkeley or the Grand. My favorite in New York is the Carlyle.The service is excellent.'

David Tennant, a London-based travel writer who spent 23 years as travel editor of the Illustrated London News says: 'The best hotel in Europe is the Cipriani in Venice. My favorite in Paris is the Westminster, a small hotel with excellent service. In New York, it's the Pierre. What I look for is service, promptness, politeness. Most business hotels today have all the amenities you could possibly need, but it's the attitude toward service that counts; promptness in registration and efficient room service. A lot of hotels are going overboard with deluxe facilities and charging a great deal for them. I prefer something simple, but comfortable.’

'My advice is to spend more money on hotels than restaurants if you are on a budget. I look for a clean, quiet room where I can relax and work when I have to,' says Andre Clodong, a Canadian who runs a public relations company in Brussels. 'Also a good concierge can be of tremendous service. The concierge at the Vierjahreszeiten in Munich once organized an entire conference for me - catering service at an evening function which was outside the hotel, a fleet of cars, audio visual equipment and a ladies' program. He was my only contact for all this.'

William Davis, the British publisher and author, includes among his personal favorites the Oriental in Bangkok, the Mandarin in Hongkong, the Regent in Sidney, the Plaza-Athenee in Paris, the Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles and the Carlyle in New York. The Oriental's excellence is a combination of central location and a high ratio of staff to guests (nearly 1,000 for only 405 rooms). Davis puts it down to a hotelier's maxim that a large professional Asian staff and a European manager make the ideal team.

Davis cites the Regent in Sydney as a good example of a hotel that understands the business traveler's needs. All its rooms have proper desks, three telephones and an international room service that operates on the color television. There is a fully equipped business center, an in-house print shop and a well-stocked reference library.

According to Davis, the three best hotel chains in the world are the Four Seasons, the Mandarin and the Regent group. He also rates the Taj group in India highly, though dependent on the region. 'Marriott has budget hotels in America, but excellent ones in the Middle East - the Marriott's in Cairo and Amman are two of the best,' he says. 'In many places Hiltons are the best.'

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