Inside the five-star environment

When travelling, for business or pleasure, nothing beats the comfort of five-star accommodation.

After a long and tiring day on the road (or at functions), you don't want to return to your room to find out the shower head in the bathroom only offers a sickly stream of water, the towel has an odour of mildew, the air con is not working and the bed linen looks like a minefield of bacteria.

That's why many people are willing to pay a lot of money for a perfect stay at a five-star hotel, where we can be sure that we will not only be treated like royalty by the service staff, but the amenities in our guestroom will be plentiful and in a splendid and hygienic condition. For me, it provides almost utmost peace of mind to see the bed on which I will sleep neatly covered with a crisp white sheet, the bathroom graced with fluffy folds of bright clean towels and the closet filled with a selection of pillows to cater to my personal preference of softness.

Yet, despite the fact that I really love and feel grateful for such five-star hospitality, there's one thing that always concerns me every time I stay at one of those gorgeous establishments. It's the question of whether the hotel is trying to indulge us so much that the management may be taking natural resources for granted.

I do understand that it's a five-star procedure practiced everywhere in the world, but, as I see no sense at home in washing my towels and changing my sheets on a daily basis (unless you have a serious skin disease or allergy), I can't bring myself to see why a hotel has to renew them that frequently for guests. In recent years, however, many environmentally-concerned hotels have placed signs advising guests to leave the towels on the rack or the hook, and not the floor, if we want to continue using them. I have always followed the advice, yet have often found my slightly used towel had been replaced. It's well intentioned, I know, but what's the point of having such a "tree-hugger" note?

Even the key card-activated electricity system, which reduces energy waste while we're not in our room, doesn't seem to victoriously seize any superfluous comfort away from five-star hotel guests in favour of the environment, thanks to the great generosity of the hotel people.

Rooms at expensive hotels usually come with at least two key cards, even if there's only one guest. That means, with one card serving to open the door, the other can always stay inserted in the electrical slot inside the room, allowing the guest to leave the power on even when they're away.

When staying at these places, I always make sure everything is off when I'm not in the room, though I occasionally leave one of the cards in the slot. Unfortunately, when the housekeeper came in the evening for a turndown service, she often didn't just make my bed comfortable for the night, but also turned on the air conditioner and some lights (and sometimes music) so I didn't have to switch them on myself. We always teach our children not to waste energy by leaving the electrical appliances on, but apparently some very sane grown-ups in well-off society seem to do the opposite. Have you ever noticed that, at five-star hotels, there are always two bath towels, two hair towels and two hand towels waiting in the bathroom no matter whether we check in as single person and only for a night?

According to my friends in the five-star hotel circle, all of them will go to the laundry as soon as we check out, whether they have been touched or not. Thinking about how unnecessarily the hotels are wasting water, power and detergent, while creating new water pollution, I couldn't help but express my objection. They gave a very understandable explanation as to why they have to launder every single towel when guests leave, but never as to why there have to be six towels for one guest in the first place.

Vanniya Sriangura is a senior writer and food columnist for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

About the author

Writer: Vanniya Sriangura
Position: News Reporter