Richard Quest is a veteran of the business travel trade. He has stayed in five-star suites, houseboats and motor lodges, and in the flats of complete strangers. He spoke to Lounge about grading airline food, the trippy side effects of long flights and where €1,000-a-night is money well spent. Edited excerpts:
What’s the most bizarre journey that you’ve taken?
Around the world in economy. I’m not kidding: These long-distance flights across the world, where you cross multiple time zones in a very short time period, really mess with your head. I had a bizarre one last week, actually. I went to New York for a day. There you are, you’re working on the aircraft, filming, and I land in New York and spot a friend waiting for me at the airport. Then my mind starts playing tricks on me. “Am I in New York? Is that Katie? There’s a yellow cab there, so this is definitely New York. Why am I in New York?” So when I get back on a plane and fly back to London, I’m like “Was I just in New York? Was that Katie? What was I doing in New York?”
Request granted: Richard Quest (centre) adds ‘concierge trolley’ to the list of vehicles he has travelled in. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
Which is the worst place to do business and why?
There is absolutely no way I’m answering that!
Let’s rephrase it then. What’s the most challenging place to do business?
Well, okay, I think it all depends on the kind of business you’re trying to do. Obviously, there are parts of Africa that pose unique challenges— infrastructure doesn’t work, “unauthorized” payments may be required. But then there are also places like Japan, where your mobile phone won’t work, and people hardly speak your language, even in places like Tokyo. Then you go to Los Angeles, and they’re speaking this strange language, but it’s the same language! You have no idea what they’re talking about. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a developing nation where things can go wrong. Your Wi-Fi may not connect, BlackBerrys may break down. Getting money out, now there’s another huge challenge. I was in…where was I, in Venice, yes…and I’m walking up to this bank machine, and I realize it’s the only one around. If this one isn’t going to give me money, I’m in the s***.
Thank the gods it did.
The tackiest hotel you’ve stayed in.
You’re determined to put me in trouble, aren’t you?
Also Read Judgement Quest (click here)
All right, the most “challenging” hotel you’ve stayed in.
Let me remember…it wasn’t a hotel at all, and it was in Switzerland…or was it Germany? Wherever it was…we were there for this event, and the place is so big, and there are so many people there, that the hotels can’t cope. So they put people into flats, and there we were, in somebody else’s flat…and it was disgusting. It was…dirty, and the towels looked like they had been used to clean the toilets. This other time, and it was the same event (God, I hate doing that event), they put us on a houseboat, where the sewage backed up against our abode.
What’s the mark of a good business hotel? Which ones do you love?
I think a good business hotel recognizes why you’re there—you’re not there for your health but for your wealth. But no hotel ever gets it right. In Japan, for example, you need a degree in electronics to open the curtains and figure out how the light switches work.
All right. My favourite hotel? It’s a lovely little hotel in Los Angeles called the Le Parc. Why? Because when I arrive, they know who I am. They’ve got the suite ready (all the rooms are suites). I go down to breakfast in the morning, and they know I want the Le Parc breakfast with a café latte. Faxes and couriers, no problem.
Other hotels that will do the same—The InterContinental in Singapore (I love that hotel) and The Intercon (InterContinental) in Hong Kong (a wonderful hotel. Huge windows, and a great view of the harbour).
But Paris. Aaah, the George Cinq. I went there once, and I could have moved in…except it was €1,000 (around Rs69,000) a night. My belt broke while I was there, and I put it aside. When I came back a few hours later, they’d repaired it! Yeah, wow. Even at €1,000 a night…please if there’s a God up there listening, please let me stay there.
Krish Raghav contributed to this story.