What if you had said yes?
A couple of months ago we put out an unusual SOS; we wanted volunteers to stay in luxury hotels, for free, on our behalf.
We were just building momentum on a new site, www.luxuryandboutiquehotels.com but circumstances meant we couldn’t travel for a few months. That’s where we hoped trusty volunteers would come to our assistance.
When an offer comes along…
You’d think we’d have our hand bitten off wouldn’t you?
To be fair, we had a few people get in touch. Not as many as we thought though.
Whether they didn’t like the idea of having to contact hotels; didn’t want to write the requisite reviews; or simply weren’t far enough along in their travel planning to make it work, most of those who enquired drifted away before anything came of it.
But one person was different. She grabbed the opportunity with both hands, put herself on our radar (and made sure she stayed there) and became a trusted partner.
Taking an idea and making it your own
We offered some help to get her started, a template for approaching hotels and some guidance on the type of content we were looking for. From that basic starting point Johanna made it her own, developing her own style of negotiating with hotels and using her initiative to maximise what she could both offer and receive in terms of hospitality and adventure.
So to Johanna Read- our star hotel reviewer and all round ‘making extraordinary things happen’ expert.
“I’m an ex-Government of Canada executive. I was lucky to benefit from the downsizing of the Public Service and was able to retire early and live my retirement dream of travelling and writing. I’ve been lucky to travel a lot in my 43 years on this beautiful planet. My goal is to visit as many countries as my years. I’m still a couple short, but now that I’m travelling almost full time, my goal is well within reach.
How I Joined the LuxuryAndBoutiqueHotels.com Review Team
I subscribe to Chris and Hannah’s Love Play Work newsletter, and one day in summer 2013 there was a most intriguing invitation within it. With a baby coming soon, Hannah and Chris had to curtail their travelling for a bit and were looking for travelling writers willing and able to contribute to their Luxury And Boutique Hotels website. That sounded pretty ideal to me!
How It Works
Once I decide on a destination (as I write this I’m in Malaysia), I research luxury and boutique hotels through Google. I find other travel writers tend to have the best recommendations, but I’m not immune to looking at Trip Advisor. I then send a fairly long email to selected hotels explaining who I am and what I and luxuryandboutiquehotels.com will offer them in exchange for a two night stay at their property.
Some hotels say yes right away, some need to check with higher ups, some say no right away, and others I never hear back from (some emails are auto-sent to spam folders too).
We work out mutually convenient dates (weekends are rare), and I arrive.
Some hotels will create a schedule for me to show off everything their property has to offer:
- The Danna Langkawi‘s lovely marketing manager came up from Kuala Lumpur and took me to sites like the Langkawi cable car, hosted a traditional Tippin lunch and an over-the-top tasting menu dinner at the hotel’s Planter’s dining room, plus treated me to a massage before her arrival.
- At Rebak Island Resort – A Taj Hotel, my itinerary included a nature walk with a naturalist, a cooking demonstration, kayaking, a massage, and a meeting with the manager of their marina.
While days like this are full ones, they give me lots of material to develop stories beyond the short feature on luxuryandboutiquehotels.com. And the more info I have on what a hotel has to offer, the better I can promote them!
I get a tour of the property from most hotels. Sometimes I have dinner with the owner or manager. Sometimes every corner I turn has someone asking “Miss Johanna, are you enjoying your stay? Is there anything I can do for you?” Sometimes I’m pretty much left alone (which can be great when deadlines are pressing!)
Where I’ve Been / What I’ve Done
I’m on a six-month trip now: New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia. And maybe Burma and Brunei. We’ll see. I’ll start planning soon for more. I’m thinking Galapagos in the spring, and maybe northern Africa for the autumn.
I’ve been hosted at a full range of hotels — big resorts with all the luxury trimmings to tiny boutique hotels, even one with a bathroom under the stars and a cat sleeping in the wooden bathtub! And I giggle out loud a fair amount, can’t quite believing that I’m sleeping in a luxury suite, that a flower-strewn bath has been drawn for me, that I’m having two massages in one day, and that a chef has prepared a tasting plate of a dozen desserts, just to make sure there is something I like.
The Best Bits
Reviewing for luxuryandboutiquehotels.com has slowed down my travel and made me look differently at a destination. My travelling is now about living in a place — even for just a couple weeks — rather than vacationing somewhere. While I check out many tourist highlights, I spend more time talking to locals, expats and visitors to find out why they’re here, what they like and don’t like, and about their personal stories. I explore neighbourhoods with my camera discovering things I know I otherwise wouldn’t.
And as a former public servant where free coffee was a rare treat, I’m still genuinely surprised, thrilled and grateful when anyone offers me anything gratis. Especially the massages!
Writing for luxuryandboutiquehotels.com makes my long term travelling life a lot more affordable and a lot more comfortable. And a lot more fun. I’m travelling to experience the world — and find content to write about and photograph — and Luxury And Boutique Hotels gives me one more way to do that”.
Are you making the most of opportunities that come your way?
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