What James Bond teaches us about hotels

Spectre, the 24th James Bond film, has come and gone. Now it seems only fitting that we discuss this iconic character in a hospitality context. Ever the intrepid jetsetter, Agent 007 has stayed at some of the most immaculate hotel and resort properties around the globe on his mission for Queen and Country.

In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to name a movie in this series that doesn’t involve a hotel. Spectre’s outing in this regard wasn’t a hotel per se but a rehabilitation center in the Swiss Alps that looked so spectacular I’d almost want to fake an addiction to stay there!

As a quick google search of “James Bond hotels” will yield dozens of websites listing spectacular examples of where our favorite gentleman spy has absconded, I’ll be avoiding specific references below. Of note, my two favorites are the Fontainebleau in Goldfinger (a landmark property defining Ocean Drive in Miami Beach) and the Taj Lake Palace in Octopussy (uniquely Indian and definitely on my bucket list).

The persona that is James Bond exudes class and his taste in hospitality is top notch. As such, he only picks the best places to rest his head, and he demands the best in every ounce of service delivery. For a hotel to appear in a high-brow spy thriller is a badge of honor and one that marks your property as one with an exceptional location and an extraordinary sense of place. Watching this film series over the years, here are five lessons that you should consider if you want to be “Bond worthy.”

1. Sophistication never goes out of style. When James Bond crosses his legs and sips his martini in the lobby lounge, it isn’t just any lobby lounge that he chooses. The setting he selects for relaxation – or for the guise of relaxation but in reality some form of espionage – is always exemplary in very specific ways. It may the ornate leather-backed chairs, the polished marble balustrade behind said chairs, his dazzling tux, the crisp staff uniforms, the elaborate flower decorations next to the front desk or even the slight glimmer off of his crystal glassware. In any case, there is always something intricate and highly cosmopolitan about the framing of the picture. And what James does, so too must your hotel emulate. Bond is fluent in numerous languages – do you have bilingual or trilingual employees? Bond attends the most lavish of parties – what royal galas have you hosted within the past year? Oh yes, his bartender knows the difference between ‘shaken’ and ‘stirred.’

2. Manners maketh man. What does it mean to be a “gentle” man (or woman) spy? I was reminded of this adage by the recent crowd-pleaser Kingsmen, which isn’t a Bond entry. However, this is also the motto of New College at Oxford University, which has this movie beat by more than a few centuries. Either way the result is the same: James Bond is elegant, suave and proper (except when he has to use that license to kill of his). In turn, the hotel staffers match his demeanor; they are ever attentive and always respectful to their guest’s requests. And even when our urbane protagonist has one of his bouts of violence, the team never falters from anything but genteel. That’s part of the job requirement after all – you can’t be a gentleman without a strict adherence to manners. I might add that this requirement also applies to the new “lifestyle” segment of hotel properties.

3. Impeccable service. Building on the last point, yes, manners maketh hotel staff, but if you watch closely, you’ll see that they always give a little extra in their service delivery. Property employees are often anticipating Bond’s needs or taking care of requests that are far beyond what they have been trained to handle. Furthermore, they do so with a smile and are grateful to be of help. They are dedicated to serving their guests. Given that these marquis operatives are lodged in guestrooms with ADRs frequently north of US$1,000 per night, it seems only fitting that the staff ‘earn’ their price tags! If you hope to command such a lofty ADR one day, it all starts with the right team attitude.

4. Classic F&B, perfect execution. James Bond knows his food and he knows his liquor. He dines at the best restaurants and he uses his refined palate to woo his colleagues as well as any persons of interest or a femme fatale. Moreover, his tastes are mostly old school – a vodka martini straight up, meat and potatoes prepared to perfection or a nice bottle of French wine. There’s something to be said about, say, a simple gin and tonic as made with only the highest of quality in both liquid components, or a straightforward roast prime rib au jus recipe that’s been honed over the decades by world-class chefs. Yes, be inventive with your food but respect the staples. And whatever you do end up cooking, pay the utmost attention to the details.

5. Undeniable sense of place. Every hotel that the spy of spies visits is worthy of the silver screen and is a quintessential match for what an audience member would expect from the showcased region. For instance, a laidback Caribbean resort is immediately distinguishable from a palatial Moscovian hangout, and yet both are places you’ll dream of visiting. Each location this titular secret agent journeys to must be exceptional to the point where it must easily discernible from other sequences in the movie as well as all others throughout the Bond oeuvre. Ask yourself how you are creating a space that guests will not only relish but will identify as unlike any other in the whole wide world.