Anthony Melchiorri has come a long way since working as the director of front office operations for New York's iconic Plaza Hotel. Now, more than 20 years and a fair share of hotel management jobs later, the Brooklyn-born hospitality expert has taken on the role of "hotel fixer" for the Travel Channel's Hotel Impossible. And After Anthony, a one-hour special looking back on Season One, airs February 4 at 10 p.m.Here, Melchiorri reflects on the properties he visited, describes his perfect hotel room, and more.
Q: What is the biggest mistake made by hotel owners?
A: When a hotel is trying to cut their budget, they always start by taking away from the housekeeping department. Even if you're going bankrupt, I still deserve not to get sick in the room. You gotta give your team the tools to do their job. You cut marketing, but you don't cut the things that are the very foundation of why people come to your hotel—for clean, comfortable sleep.
Q: What was your biggest success story from the first season?
A: To me, anyone that feels that we added value and we did our job—and that's the majority of our owners—is a success. But if you're going to put a dollar on it, I would say La Jolla Cove Suites. The owner changed her marketing strategies, started using the deck overlooking the ocean, and learned how to price a room online.
Q: Season Two is airing now. What are some highlights?
A: You can expect bears chasing me, guns, ATVs, mountain bikes, surfing. It's like James Bond meets the hotel business. We go to California, Alaska, Hawaii, Wisconsin, Arizona, Vermont, Colorado. It really runs the gamut—big hotels, ski resorts, little hotels, old-world hotels—but what has been consistent is the desperation of turning around the hotel. It gets pretty intense. My cameraman cries on the last show.
Q: What's the biggest hotel trend you're seeing today?
A: I think people are getting back to basics. They've stopped trying to be the greatest and the biggest, and instead are giving us free wireless, bottles of water, a good lobby, friendly staff. We just want comfort, and I think owners are starting to get that. And guests are being a lot stingier with their money, which is having an effect on homing in on the basics of what people really want.
Q: Describe your perfect hotel room.
A: As soon as I put my foot on the carpet, I want to feel like I'm on the most comfortable carpet in the world. I also want an absolutely spotless bathroom. It's gotta be cleaner than an operating room. And I want a desk where I can have my cell phone, computer, and iPad going, I can see the TV, and I can have my cheeseburger.
Q: What are a few of your favorite hotels around the world?
A: I was just in Dubrovnik, and I stayed at a 5-star hotel called The Excelsior. It had an amazing spa and pool, and extraordinary views. I love Shutters on the Beach in Los Angeles. Then there's one outside of Detroit called the Townsend Hotel. It's the best hotel I've seen that has the technology of today, but makes me feel like it was 100 years ago. And in New York, it's the Waldorf-Astoria. I love the old-world lobby; I could sit under the clock for the rest of my life.
Brooke Porter is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure.