HOTELS: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE BOUTIQUE

It is rather common among local artists and activists to talk about boutique hotels as some sort of a monster that is gobbling up heritage buildings and community spaces. On the other hand, tourists are increasingly fed up with impersonal, sterile chain hotels and shun typical hotel neighbourhoods, so the demand for different, more authentic accommodation is soaring. The quest for authenticity and unique experience leads many to choose AirBnB, which offers cosier stays for tourists, but further depletes the limited rental housing supply in Malta. What is the fairest way to travel? Does anyone still value old-school hotels?

Inspired by international horror stories, Evelyn Borg came up with the following tips to make a stay in hotels bulletproof-hygienic. Using disposable plastic cups that end up in the ocean and carrying one’s own disinfectant – is this a fair price to pay for travel accommodation? Horror stories circulating the web lead many to think that it’s better to be safe than sorry.

On top of occasional exceptionally bad service, there are problems that concern hotels as a whole. With or without disposable cups, hotels are wasteful and create tons of rubbish. They try to trick you into buying boring, overpriced snacks from the minibar. They are deeply impersonal spaces, with strange cleaning routines that don’t make sense. As soon as I arrange things the way I like them in a room, cleaning staff put them in standard places because… just because that’s what they always do. Coming back after a conference or a long day walking, I find useless decorative covers back on my beds, towels in a counter-intuitive order, and my personal toiletries moved around, which gives me an eerie reminder that a stranger had been touching my personal items. No wonder why many travel bloggers (e.g. here) suggest opting for alternatives to hotels – AirBnBs, friendly hostels, short-term rents, farm stays, and even religious housing.

On the other hand, some writers point out that hotels have some advantages which can’t be found elsewhere, be it AirBnB or informal housing. Luxurious-looking bathrooms with cute bottles of toiletries. Anonymity and professionalism. Taking leave from cleaning your room. Safety and 24/7 service. All these perks attract not only tourists, but also locals who want to celebrate a special occasion or just get away from it all. Perhaps everyone will be best served when no single trend dominates, and, from home stay to shared bunk beds in a youth hostel to luxury rooms, a variety of options becomes available.