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Celebrity or not, Quest bleeds
Last month, the host of CNN Business Traveller Monthly had a nasty accident in a hotel bathroom. He doesn't want to talk about it anymore. But Yeoh Siew Hoon meets up with Quest to exchange other hotel stories.
I am sure every hotelier from Timbuktu to Tibet must be talking about it – the accident that one of television's most famous faces, CNN's Richard Quest, had in a hotel room in the Middle East.
So before I went to interview him in a hotel room in Singapore, I decided to read his account of it. It’s in his blog – CNN Business Traveller
In it, he says, “I was taking a shower in my hotel room, I turned off the water, I tried to open the shower door, when the seven-foot glass door shattered and landed on top of me.
“I was badly cut, requiring hospital treatment involving stitches. I have spent the past few days bandaged and in discomfort. It will be some days before the stitches can be taken out. I am hobbling about.
“It was a very nasty shock, I can tell you. Forget what people say about shower doors being toughened glass, like windshields that can't cut you. They can and they did (alright, if it had been plate glass you'd probably be reading my obituary rather than my blog).”
It’s not something Quest wishes to talk about anymore. He doesn’t want to name the hotel. He doesn’t want to answer the question, “Will you be suing?” I suspect it’ll all be sorted out – behind bathroom doors so to speak.
But you can tell he is still shaken by it. He says it reminds him of how vulnerable we are when on the road, far away from loved ones, and in a strange land. (See THE SHY Interview)
The scar on his hand is still there. It still looks red and angry. I felt for him when I looked at it. It reminded me of the time I got burnt on my chest in an unfortunate accident in a hotel spa.
Shit happens, as they say. And we were both lucky to escape worse injuries.
But as sorry as I felt for Quest, I couldn’t help but feel sorry too for the general manager, whoever he is. I mean, it’s bad enough that it happened but that it had to happen to someone like Quest, someone as high-profile in the media like that, someone who could destroy your reputation overnight if he wished to.
Plus the horrible realization that every bathroom door in his hotel could be an accident waiting to happen?
And what if other hotels have installed the same door – you know how cookie-cutter hotels can be, right? Perish the thought.
I can just see every general manager checking if their doors are of the same make and yelling at the suppliers to make sure “nothing like this ever happens in my hotel”.
Anyway, I found out that as different as Quest and I are from each other – he’s way more famous, leads a far more glamorous life, meets far more interesting people, travels more than I do, is sought out by everybody and people hang on to his every word – he and I agree on a couple of things when it comes to hotels.
One, we hate the breakfast buffet. Quest is more vitriolic about it. He calls them “loathsome” and says they should be done away with.
I was in a top hotel in Hong Kong last week. I got to bed quite late and thought it would be nice to have breakfast in the room the next morning. I took the breakfast menu – you know, the door knob thing, yes it’s still around.
This one read like a Charles Dickens novel. It had at least six sides to it, with fine print all over it. There were so many choices. American, Continental, Japanese, Chinese. And then there were sets. And then there were the ala carte choices. I felt so bewildered, did not order anything and went to bed dreaming of dancing croissants.
I understand the need to give customers choices but sometimes you’ve got to keep it simple and help them decide. After a busy day of making decisions, ordering breakfast at night should be a no-brainer, not a SAT test.
Two, we hate hotels overcharging us for Internet access. We don’t mind paying for what we use, we understand hotels have to make money but don’t overcharge us. If you do, you know we will find a way to get around you.
Quest comes across as somebody who absolutely loves what he does. One of the lucky people who is actually in love with their job.
But I reckon it’s not easy being who he is. He’s in our living rooms most evenings. We all feel like we know him. Yet we don’t. We all feel like we own a piece of him. But we don’t.
So when you meet him for the first time, it feels strange. It’s like saying hi to an old, familiar friend, yet he’s a stranger. You have lots of perceptions about him, he doesn’t know you from Eve.
You expect him to be like what he appears to be on television. Energetic. Fun. Irrepressible. Opinionated. Anything less and you’d be disappointed.
What is it like to be Richard Quest, I asked.
He said, “Earlier this year, I was – and I am not dropping names here – doing a programme on ‘Quest on Royalty’ and I was interviewing Prince Andrew. I asked him a similar question like don’t you get tired of all the hand shaking? He replied, you have to remember what’s normal for me is not normal for you.
“It made me think. He wasn’t saying I am better than you, just that “my experiences are different”.
“It has its challenges. People expect you to be what they think you are and I have to be aware of who I have to be all the time.”
It’s something he must carry within him all the time. He’s got to smile all the time, otherwise we’d say he’s arrogant. Who does he think he is? He’s got to be smart all the time. Otherwise, we’d say he’s just a suit and reads someone else’s lines.
I am not saying for one moment we should feel sorry for the man. In fact he was the first one to say, don’t you paint me as “poor little Richard boy, poor little travelling boy” when he talked about the loneliness of travel.
But hey, deep down, whether you’re Quest or not, we are all human. Yes, even TV celebrities bleed when they’re cut. At least one hotelier knows that.
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