As I reflect upon what I consider elegance in the world of travel, I think about hotels that may in some ways be vastly different but have certain features in common that define elegant to me. They are usually understated, not showy. The service is what I call professionally friendly. Customer-facing staff with open, engaging personalities are hired and trained to deploy their warmth in ways that make guests feel welcome and personally acknowledge though not creeped out and intruded upon. That can be a fine line.
The pinnacle of such service is the Four Seasons, where staff greets you by name from the minute you arrive at the hotel. Similarly the Aman Resorts, a primarily Asia-based hotel group with several gorgeous new outposts in North America, welcomes guests with warmth and sincerity.
Talking my way into a behind-the-scenes kitchen and service-area tour of the Amanbagh resort in Rajasthan I spied a board with the pictures and names of all guests. “Aha!,” I thought, “That’s how they know our names.”
Knowing the secret behind the magic didn’t lessen the respect I have for the company. If anything, it increased it knowing that their flavor of elegant service was borne in a disciplined approach to welcoming their guests. In the world of gay accommodations, there are many that offer excellent service in a luxurious setting though that service may wax and wane depending on who owns and runs it at any given point in time. This is true for many small businesses that take on the personality of the founding owner and may suffer in the hands of the next generation ownership.
Several gay owned guesthouses seem elegant to me including Provincetown’s lovely Brass Key, Palm Springs’s low-key but gorgeous Hacienda with its two inviting swimming areas and huge rooms and East Canyon known for its on-site spa facilities are but three that come to mind.
Underpinning the elegance of all these hotel groups and properties is the warm and authentic invitation and welcome accorded all gay and lesbian guests. It’s easy to argue that if you can afford these establishments they better treat you well but having experienced many high-end expensive properties that were conservative or uptight about gay guests, I know that a higher price point does not guarantee gay friendliness or true elegance.