So do you think that hotel reviews really tell the full story? The brutal truth  is that if you only go by the star levels, you may miss a great experience. Believe me when I tell you the intention was there on our recent trip to the Hilton Curacao to do an exhaustive review of the property on this blog. I took some pictures, met the staff and was prepared to tell it all good or bad. However, in the end, that plan was derailed and here is why. Those damn reviews.

Leading up to this trip, much like every other trip our family takes, I had done the research. I knew every detail on this property due to the reviews that were out there. The reviews are many and, well, they almost all stink!  So many reviews and most of them bad, but I found an interesting trend for a majority of these reviews. They were mainly poor due to the property itself. Needless to say our expectations were quite low, but we had some free nights to use and Curacao was nowhere on the list of likely destinations, so why the hell not go? An endless trail of one and two star reviews that go into detail on the debilitating property that sits on a beautiful stretch of land in Curacao. The pictures below show the canvas Hilton has and makes me wonder why more isn’t done to make them the go-to location in the southern Caribbean? On the surface you may look at these pictures and believe that the property looks quite nice and if it wasn’t for the staff it wouldn’t look this good. Some band-aid action does the trick with some elbow grease thrown in.

The one redeeming glimmer of hope for the Hilton Curacao is that these same disparaging reviews on the property also gave extremely high compliments to the staff. In addition, to be sure, the property manager read these reviews as each one was responded to with humbleness and apologies. However, those compliments, as well as they were expressed never translated to the star level that the staff deserved.

It brought to my attention an important but unfortunate casualty to the star system, reviews overall and for the unintended recipients of poor reviews. No matter how good your staff may be, the reviews will never reflect it. I actually came to this realization about halfway through the trip as I encountered the same experience as a majority of the reviewers. The Hilton Curacao reviews were consistent and unfortunate. A great staff at an apparent cash-poor and lost-in-time hotel.

I feel depressed for the staff that has the task of taking a property that had obviously been neglected for years (decor appears to be 80’s) and make it seem pretty. But they do! The Hilton Curacao, as mentioned previously, was clean and the service level was some of the best our family had received at any hotel. You could sense the overcompensating that was taking place and don’t think we didn’t appreciate it. The staff knows their current situation and the fact that they have very little control over the solution, with the exception of two things. Clean like hell and give the guests the service that will hopefully make the physical issues dissipate, at least in perception.

But, is this a cycle that this staff will be forced to endure for the foreseeable future? To read the reviews you would believe that at some point the company would begin to make some changes and give the staff a product that would meet the service level. That is, if the corporate side of Hilton actually reads reviews. Honestly, the staff is handcuffed with very few options but pride.

SPG Staff Recognition Promotion Makes Sense

I received recently some coupons from SPG that enables guests to give these cards to the staff when they receive service that is above and beyond. This is a limited time promotion they are running with guests but it certainly helps recognize good service. This option doesn’t squash the need for rehab work to be done on properties such as the Hilton Curacao but it does allow for individual recognition, and for many of these workers, that would be enough. The sad reality of focusing on star reviews is that we are tempted to simply give the value based on the physical appeal of the hotel. It’s a natural response to unsightly environments in our travels.

When a staff member takes pride in where they work, it can be daunting to put on that smiling face when each review takes you down a notch. But at the Hilton Curacao, they seem to take it with a grain of salt hoping that the experience can possibly overcome any aesthetic blemishes. My family all agreed that with a minimal amount of money they could at least make some noticeable changes with a simple coat of paint and new carpet. Of course, as mentioned above it all depends on management getting the attention of the corporate side to make even the slightest and bare minimum enhancements.

I will be reaching out to the corporate side myself to first explain how fantastic the staff treated their guests, but second to let them know that their inaction on making some improvements is seriously jeopardizing their ability to compete. And when you have a view like this from your room seen below, and the staff to boot, you’re more than halfway there. To sum up, we would definitely go back to the Hilton Curacao but only due to the 5-Star Service we received. They should be proud of their treatment of the guests but in my honest opinion, they deserve more than just a pat on the back from me.

 

“Live Within Your Means, Travel Beyond Them!”