If the past year has taught us anything it’s that too many sentences now start with ‘If the past year has taught us anything’. But that aside, we’ve had some time to think haven’t we? To really think. To think in a way we didn’t before. Or couldn’t. Or wouldn’t.
Don’t worry, this isn’t the start of some self-help sermon. It’s just that what we kept thinking about, amongst it all, was our passion. Somewhere among all these ups and downs there was a constant.
Now, it can feel awkward to talk about a passion. Forced, somehow. Either too over-the-top or not quite over-the-top enough. But look, this is the week of St Valentine, and if you can’t speak from the heart now, then when can you?
Hopefully it comes as no surprise to anyone reading this that our passion is for hotels. And not that anaesthetised corporate ‘passion’ you now see in adverts for mattresses or razors or banks or whatever the hell. But the real, nerdy, giddy passion of a fan.
There’s a scene at the end of that fable to fandom, Almost Famous, when the young journalist finally gets his rockstar subject on the record. ‘What is it you love about music?’ he asks. The rockstar thinks for a second, leans into his interviewer’s tape recorder and says ‘To begin with, everything.’ It’s a scene that plays over and over whenever someone asks us the same question about hotels because, well, that fictional rockstar stole our answer.
‘Films and hotels have many aspects that are the same,’ to use a fitting Francis Ford Coppola quote. ‘There is always a big vision, an idea.’ It’s no wonder, then, that two of his daughter Sofia’s most acclaimed movies have hotels at their heart. Big visions can inspire high art.
And for a Big Vision to succeed it needs to elicit a response. In the world of hotels, joy, thrill, shock, awe, desire, envy and delight would all be taken as good ones. A queen-size bed pushed from an 11th-storey window onto a valet station below would be seen as a bad one (sorry, Mötley Crüe).
A good response is physical, even. Pulses quicken. Eyes widen. Shoulders loosen. Exhales are deep and satisfying. Human adults dive face-first onto beds.
Here, in whichever hotel room you’re deciding to picture at this point, you are not bound by the drudgery of home. Of schedules, of routine, of – to give things contemporary context – those same damn walls; those same damn walks.
No, here it’s all about the pleasure of possibility. ‘We should get one of these!’ you say as you caress a designer chair and mentally redecorate your whole house. ‘I want all of these!’ you sigh browsing the menu of spa treatments and imagining some sort of rebirth. You spy that neat little stationery set on the desk by the window and think of becoming a Person Of Letters. ‘People don’t write enough letters these days!’ you think, until you get distracted by the minibar. ‘Is it too soon for a drink?’ you ask, rhetorically. Except here, drinks can be taken decadently in the gleaming, spacious bath tub. And meals, all of them, can be eaten in bed without judgement. Or they can be an excuse to reacquaint yourself with proper clothes and venture downstairs – or beyond, through thrillingly different streets – for a proper dinner, where ‘Why not?’ becomes your stock answer and your ‘No food photos’ rule is broken with every course.
You might be cosied up in a hearth-warmed pub, playing castaway at an island idyll, holding court in some OTT château or surveying scenes from high in a city skyline. Your days might be a blur of cultural exploration or they might elevate lying down to a new artform. Perhaps this place buzzes with people – each one a potential new friend, or at least the subject of giggled speculation and an absurd nickname. Or maybe you barely see a soul and this kind of solitude – voluntary, with a happy hour – is just the tonic.
It’s these scenes of pure possibility, set inside someone else’s Big Vision, that fuel our passion. That make us fans. That make us hotel lovers. That, perhaps most importantly, have kept us going through the year such productions ceased.
There’s a supporting cast of thousands who make that possibility possible, of course. From desk clerk to concierge, housekeeper to horticulturist, maître d’ to mixologist, good hospitality is people-powered. Not that it ends on hotel grounds, mind. There’s the taxi driver, the taverna owner, the tomato-grower – hell, there’s half the town sometimes.
So you certainly won’t need us to remind you that the toll of this year to all those in the hotel, and hotel-adjacent, trades has been monumental. Suppliers, staff and hotels themselves among the casualties. It’s going to take heroic efforts to begin the restoration, from governments, scientists, tourist boards, airlines, campaigners, journalists – and from all of us.
We can start small, on this Valentine’s Day, by reminding ourselves of why we’re passionate in the first place, of what hotels really mean to us. We can remember those little details, those memories, those goosebump moments and let them be the inspiration for a summer/autumn/winter/spring of love (delete as ministerially sanctioned).
Because, though hotels might be out of reach, being a hotel lover is more important now than ever. After all, it’s about possibility.