Thursday, April 20, 2017

Stay Report: InterContinental Dar Al Tawhid, Makkah (April 2017)

Stay Report: InterContinental Dar Al Tawhid, Makkah
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I was going back of Makkah for the third time and was looking for a hotel that could accommodate three people in one room and one that was close.  I had previously stayed at the Hilton Makkah, which was nice but only accommodated two persons per room, and the Hilton Makkah Towers, which accommodated three people but was not updated and has since been torn down.  I had heard good things about the Intercontinental, and after previous good experience with the brand in other countries decided to book the Intercontinental Makkah Dar Al Tawhid.

The hotel is conveniently located near the religious area and provides clear access to the King Fahad gate number 74.  The location of the hotel is one of the best attributes, as it is still central while not being crowded.  The main entrance to the hotel is on the street, which faces away from the Kaa’ba, while there is a second entrance that leads directly to that area.  The rooms either face the main entrance side or the Kaa’ba side, and there is a price difference between the two rooms.  You enter the hotel through the main entrance, and you can either go downstairs to access the religious area or you go upstairs to access reception.

I had booked the hotel as part of a package through a travel agent, so I was unable to add my IHG number prior to the reservation.  For this instance, I was not greeted as a loyalty member.  I added the number at that time, but still no additional perks were received at the hotel (the hotel had poor customer service all around so I don’t think it would have mattered even if I was able to add my number prior to the reservation).  Checkin was extremely slow, inefficient, and chaotic.  There are about 5 people working behind the desks but there are no real lines and no order; whomever can push to the front and get the persons attention will be checked in.  It was nowhere near the level of a 5-star hotel.  When I checked in, I reminded them that we were three individuals so an additional bed was needed in the room; the front desk said they would alert housekeeping.  I received my key and went to my room.  As I said before, the hotel was split into two sections – those who had the religious view went to elevators A-G and those on the street side when to elevators K-N.  There were plenty of elevators available, another positive aspect of the hotel, but you had to punch your floor number into the keypad and it would direct you to which elevator to use.   This aspect was not explained and many guests had not used these types of elevators so there was a lot of confusion and lot of people getting off on the wrong floor.
Our room was located on the 5th floor.  The hallways and entryways to the rooms were very large – which indicated this was an older hotel (from my understanding, it is somewhat older and has only been moderately updated as the Saudi government has told the hotel it will be demolished; all hotels will be built across the street as they expand the religious portion).  The room itself was large in terms of size, and also looked like it had been moderately updated.  
As you entered the room, you entered into a long hallway which led into the room.  As you walked down the hallway, on the left hand side was the bathroom and then further down the closet.  The bathroom contained a sink, a toilet, a bidet, and a shower.  The bathroom was a decent size, but both the water pressure and temperature were inconsistent; sometimes they were great while others it wasn’t good.  The closet hallway contained two open closets, each wide and the first closet had the iron and ironing board while the second closet contained the safe plus slippers.  There was also supposed to be a robe in there, but that wasn’t provided until the next day.  The hallway ended as you entered the room.
The room itself was quite large and comfortably fit the three single beds.  As you entered in the room, on your left against the wall were two chairs with a table in the middle.  The two chairs faced the bed, which was against the other wall.  Next to the bed was a nightstand and next to that was the other single bed.  There was then a lot of space in between the second bed and the window, and this is where the rollaway was put (once it arrived as it took multiple calls and requests for the bed to arrive).  The beds themselves were decent and provided a comfortable nights rest.  Across from the beds, against the other wall, was the luggage holder with drawers on the bottom, the TV stand with the TV on top and drawers on the bottom, and then the desk.  It was a very long table so it provided some good storage, but there was a definite lack of power outlets and power ports in both the room and in the closet (it was difficult to find two plugs to plug both your device and the iron in at the same time).  What the room did have was a console on the nightstand which electronically controlled the lights and windowshades.  Through this console you could close both the lights and the shades without ever getting up from the bed.  You could also control whether the prayer speaker was on, as you could pipe in the call to prayer and the prayer directly into your room.  Our window faced the street so it wasn’t a great view, but it did allow for some people watching which was nice.
Amenities in the hotel included restaurants that served breakfast, lunch and dinner; a
café that served coffee and light sandwiches; a business center, a spa, a kids room, club lounge, and free WiFi in the room.  Our room came with breakfast so I was able to try the restaurant, as well as other amenities including the free WiFi and the café.  The breakfast served was very good and broad in terms of the food options.  In every country, the breakfast buffet at the InterCon has always been good and here it was also the case with fresh pancakes, eggs, waffles, cheese, salad, bread, and other options available to be served.  The breakfast came with complimentary juices and tea/coffee; any other service needed to be paid for.  On our last day we tried the café, specifically the light sandwich.  We had ordered the croissant sandwich with cheese which basically was a large croissant with a small amount of cheese; definitely not worth the price paid for the sandwich.  The free in room WiFi was nice and provided a decent speed.  There was no mention of a restriction regarding the number of devices, but after connecting 5 devices we were told we had reached our number when trying to connect the 6th device. 
While the room was decent and so was the WiFi, what was lacking was the customer service.  There was no customer service in the hotel at all.  The service was subpar, it took forever to request something and then it took a long time for the requests to be fulfilled, and there were definite communication issues as very few individuals spoke or understood basic English.  We had a plumbing problem and we had been requesting all day for the problem to be fixed, and since morning they had been saying “ok we will take care of it” and did nothing.  By the evening, I went to go talk to the manager at the front desk.  When I went to the front desk, I was told to wait and after waiting for about 25 minutes I was told the manager has requested that I go upstairs and dial a direct extension from my room.  I did that but there was no answer at the extension so I had to go back downstairs to talk to someone, and that’s when the manager’s assistant came to talk to me; he had been behind the desk the entire time.  When I talked to him about the poor service, his explanation was “we are completely full right now and that is why you are getting poor service”.  To me, a hotel should be able to function efficiently and effectively whether you have three guests or three hundred; if you cannot handle the guests then either don’t work here or don’t have these many guests.  I have heard this explanation before and to me it seems like an excuse for poor service and poor management.

Overall, while the location of the hotel and the breakfast are nice the abysmal customer service really left a negative impression of the hotel.  The poor service started at check-in and continued through checkout.  Positives included good location, nice breakfast, decent WiFi, and large rooms.  Negatives included abysmal customer service, lack of communication with guests, and lack of clarity.

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