You'll probably never meet your hotel's general manager unless you're staying in a place such as the Carlton Hotel in St. Moritz. GMs work behind the scenes in most hotels, dealing with finances and human resources and other day-to-day operations and crises. At the Carlton, the GM used to live in an apartment just off the lobby, and made it a point to greet each arriving guest personally, no matter the time of day (he now lives outside the hotel). That kind of personal attention is rare in a large hotel, but even if your GM has other things to worry about, one day he or she might step in and save the day. One might find a home for the abandoned puppy you rescued from the street. Another might resolve a long-simmering family crisis. Or one might even bring you home to meet his parents.
Tim Welland, now the GM at the Alpina Grand in Gstaad, Switzerland, recalls the American family traveling with two young daughters, who were staying at the Amanjena in Marrakech, one of the many hotels he's helmed over the years. "They had found an orphaned puppy, at the time not much larger than a hamster, on the side of the road," he says. "They named her Pucci and took good care of her for several days, thinking that they would be able to take her back home with them, but were heartbroken when doing so proved complicated, involving months of paperwork and quarantine." So Welland adopted the pup instead. "Pucci grew up happy and healthy and ended up being much larger than expected, living the life of a well-known hotel dog, a favorite among staff and guests, and traveled the world with me for several years," he says.
And Pucci's would-be adoptive parents? "The family coordinates their travels with hers, so they see each other quite often."
Then there's the story of the woman vacationing alone for two weeks at the Four Seasons in Bali. It's unusual for a single woman, or man for that matter, to vacation at a romantic resort where many guests celebrate honeymoons, especially not for a 14-day stay. "It was so odd," says the general manager, Uday Rao. "People come here as couples, never solo." Naturally he was curious, but he proceeded carefully, not wanting to intrude. "She was eating alone each night, keeping to herself. Eventually I learned what was going on. Her husband had just died and she hadn't spoken to her only child, her son, for years, after a falling out, the nature of which we didn't go into." Bali is a magical and mystical place, and it happened that he knew of a spiritual healer he had once engaged to sort out a situation of his own. The woman made an appointment. "A few days later," Rao says, "she told me that she had called her son and they'd made arrangements to meet soon after she returned home."
Alvaro Rey, currently GM at the Intercontinental London, tells how he took matters into his own hands when he managed a hotel in Amman, Jordan. It was a holiday weekend and not only had all his rooms been reserved but the entire city was sold out. By Friday evening, all but four rooms had checked in. He waited until 6 p.m., the standard hour when unclaimed reservations are released if not guaranteed by credit card. "I told them to release two of the four rooms and they sold immediately," he recalls. "Then at 10 p.m. I released the final two. They, too, sold immediately. And then, at 11 p.m., a car pulls up and inside is a weary family of four, exhausted from a long drive, with a now-canceled reservation."
There was only one thing do to. Follow me in my car, Rey told the weary travelers, and after a short drive he installed them in two bedrooms in a private apartment, handed them towels, told them he'd check with them in the morning. Before leaving, he slipped a note under the door of a third bedroom, whose occupants were fast asleep at that late hour.
"Please feed them when they wake," it read. "Their room rate includes breakfast. Thanks Mom!"