It’s easy to be the best when there isn’t much competition. The challenge then is to compete with yourself to be the best that you can be. Sadly, the St. Regis Lhasa didn’t rise to that opportunity.
The good: The hotel is physically magnificent, truly like being a guest in a palace. The public spaces are grand, the collection of Tibetan artifacts (loaned by the hotel’s owner) is impressive and the grounds are a real respite from the hectic urban setting. The guest rooms are extremely large, well designed and beautifully furnished; views of the Potala Palace from your own mini-suite are inspiring; and the bathrooms are truly spa-like (an otherwise overused term in the hotel industry these days). There were flashes of brilliance in personalized service, like the time that no fewer than three hotel staff members were camped out on both sides of the busy main thoroughfare outside the hotel trying to flag down a taxi to take us to dinner. Dinner in the hotel’s Chinese restaurant was an elegant affair, but pricey at the level of Shanghai or Hong Kong, several times the cost of the next most expensive restaurant at which we dined in Lhasa.
The bad: Service again, when it was not in the hands of one or two of the hotel’s senior front-of- house staff. At check-in, we were refused an SPG Gold upgrade and it was only upon the intercession of a more senior staff member that not one, but multiple, room alternatives were offered, since the hotel was far from full. Breakfast was a total disaster. Our rate did not include breakfast and we are not breakfast buffet types anyway. When we asked for the breakfast menu, we were offered the buffet. When we ordered just one or two things to go with juice and tea, we waited over half an hour, and there was only one other table occupied! On another morning, the order was wrong (even though it was the same order as the previous day with the same server). On yet another morning, I threatened not to pay for breakfast because it was late again, and eventually just took what we wanted from the buffet so we could actually spend most of the morning touring rather than cooling our heels in the dining room. On our last night, we decided to eat in again and saw that we could order a la carte in the room from the hotel’s Tibetan restaurant. That proved not to be the case since the menus in the room were out of date, one could only order a price fixed complete dinner, and by the time this was finally revealed to us so much time had passed that it was virtually too late to do anything else for dinner. Enter one of the two brilliant senior staff members who came to our room, coordinated with the kitchen and honored the original expectation that we could order a la carte in our room. Some days we had turn down service and late afternoon refreshments brought complimentarily to the room by the butler; others day we did not. Sometime we saw the butler when we called him; most times, not so much.
We were disheartened to see that the hotel is planning a major expansion, the construction of which is well underway. If the hotel cannot properly service an almost empty hotel I don’t know how they are going to manage handling even more rooms. When the Shangri-La opens in Lhasa, there is going to be quite a rude awakening when the hotel will need to step up its game and the owner will have to pay for proper training of the staff. It has nothing to do with whether the staff is Tibetan or Chinese, it has to do with training whatever staff you have to an international level for a clientele with international expectations, which they have every right to have since the hotel is among the most expensive in Asia.
Overall, the physical hotel is at least 5*, service is no better than 3* and, sadly, because we really, really, really wanted to like the hotel better, the overall rating is just 4*. There is much that needs to be done here!
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- Also Known As:
- St. Regis Lhasa Hotel Lhasa
- St. Regis Lhasa Resort Tibet