Where the innkeepers opt to stay and play

Even the pros need to take a vacation and recharge. Where do top hotel executives choose to go and why? What are vacation strategies of hoteliers that we travelers can learn from? What draws them to a vacation spot? We asked four top hoteliers to share their thoughts.

Michael J. Quinn

Complex director of sales and marketing, Crestline Hotels & Resorts

What do you seek when you travel for pleasure?


Water, history, culture or any of these combined.

What are your top priorities?

Authenticity and great service. When in Greece, I want my experience to measure up to the rich history and traditions of Greece. I don’t want American food or an American hotel/travel experience. I want service to reflect my price point. If I’m dining (and paying) for five stars, I want five-star service. If I’m going budget, then clean and safe will do.

What are your favorite vacation spots?


Tahiti for the authenticity -- overwater bungalows do not exist here in my hotel world. Untouched, unspoiled and authentic at every touch point. Hawaii is not that place any longer. New York City for a great weekend of eating, shopping and Broadway -- how authentically New York. Chicago for its friendly residents and stunning architecture. Maine for its beautiful coastlines and quaint villages. Miami for its beauty, water, weather and Latin influence. San Diego for everything. Lake Como, Italy. My wife writes, and the solitude, beauty and splendor of the villages along the lake give her what she needs and allow me the time and freedom to explore. The food is wonderful, as well. Paris, London, the Greek Isles are amazing destinations that have pretty much stayed authentic in their offerings.

What’s the draw of travel for you?

I love my work. I love hotels. I love travel and always have. As a child, I spent nights with a flashlight under my covers perusing airline brochures. This was back in the days when you could make a reservation and the airline sent you brochures and you could, of course, cancel just prior to departure. I got the best stuff and fell in love with the intrigue of travel.

Peter Koehler

General manager, InterContinental

San Francisco

What are your favorite vacation spots?

I prefer small boutique properties that have their integrity still intact. My favorites are places with unique local attributes, concern for the environment and a sense of purpose, Slow Food villages, etc. On a recent vacation to Mallorca, Spain, my wife and I stayed at an 11th century finca (farm) run by an Englishman and his Italian wife, who was also the chef. Another place we loved was Sri Lanka, where we stayed at a resort in Unawatuna/Galle, then took off exploring other places by car and train, including a beautiful spot called the Elephant Corridor Hotel in Kibissa, Sigiriya. For our next vacations, I’m looking toward Mongolia and Laos.


Why do you love to travel?

I like to explore new places and learn about different cultures. The whole experience of the vacation -- tasting unique foods, learning new cultures, meeting diverse people -- is totally invigorating.

Frank Saitta

Senior director, hotel performance support, Homewood Suites by


Do you get involved in all aspects of your trips?

Absolutely. Everything from transportation, airfare and car service to choosing the hotel. I start at the top -- what and where is the nicest property in town and work from that.

Do you grade the hotels you stay in?


I totally grade every transaction, no matter what, where and who -- from the greeting on the phone, hold time, to the way the doorman greets me, the check-in, the eye contact, the smiles and how we are talked to. Once we are in our room, I begin a mini-inspection. I walk around the room or suite, looking in drawers, flushing toilets, feeling the towels, checking amenities, looking at the bed, pulling back sheets looking for cleanliness issues. I turn all the lights on, the TV, the radio and all electronic tools and toys. Then I move in.

What about hotel services?

I like to use hotel services -- that’s what they’re there for, right? We order room service, coffee, drinks, snacks -- we call housekeeping for extras -- we talk to the concierge about plans and suggestions and set up wake-up calls. I always do “the tour.” I walk the hotel, looking at restaurants, gym facilities, spas, bars and gift shops. I talk to the staff and let them know who I am and how long I’ll be there. In order to get the best out of these workers, you need to get to know them, so they feel like they’re helping out a friend.

Stephen Brandman

Co-owner, Thompson Hotels

You travel a great deal on business. So why do you still have the travel bug?

Experiencing new places is part of my nomadic lifestyle. The opportunity to unwind and not be on the go is a fantastic alternative to my everyday business life.

What types of destinations do you seek?

I love unique and exotic places. Vacations are about expanding my mind and must include sightseeing and learning about different cultures.

What are your favorite places?

I love Morocco in North Africa, where I stayed at La Mamounia, in Marrakech. Bali is my favorite spot, followed by Sydney, Barbados and Sonoma. Then there’s the Four Seasons Papagaya in Costa Rica, or Amanyara in Turks and Caicos. Truthfully, when I go on vacation, I prefer to relax and do nothing but lie by the pool or beach, soak up the sun and read a good book. That is why I enjoy locations like Bali -- the ultimate in relaxation.

What do you look for in a hotel?

I only stay at hotels where I will be pampered and that provide fantastic service.

Do pleasure trips translate to your work?

Travel helps what I do for a living, because I always see interesting things that translate back to the job. I’m not grading hotels, but the wheels in my head are always spinning.