As the founder of ENTRÉE newsletter, William Tomicki (Bill as he prefers) is a well-heeled, globetrotting travel writer, he has provided readers with insider knowledge on hotels and restaurants. He started his travel newsletter some 32 years ago, before the internet and blogging were invented. During this time, he’s witnessed a revolution in Russia, played polo with maharajahs and cooked with Julia Child, alongside a nomination for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Bill knows travel. He’s been around the world many times over and stayed in the world’s best hotels. As such, he’s developed an acute sense of what defines luxury and excellent guest service, and his advice should be taken very seriously. It’s an honor for me to know and be able to interview such an expert.
Tell me a little bit about ENTREE, its origins and how you got into the business.
As a founding broker of Sotheby’s International Realty during the 1970s, I developed quite the Rolodex and was constantly talking with people about where to stay and where to eat. During this time, I became aware of the need for an honest, no-holds-barred resource for insider travel information. This led to me to start ENTREE Travel Newsletter in 1981, then only the third newsletter in the industry. The idea was that people would want to read about what’s new before it hit the mainstream media.
The New York Times and VOGUE immediately did stories on ENTREE it and I had 1000 subscribers before I knew it. Travelers who appreciated honest, critical, witty advice written by experts flocked to us. ENTREE became the go-to source for the latest insights into hotels, restaurants, shopping, cruises, spas and travel throughout the world.
How big is ENTREE?
Today we have 22,000 subscribers, delivered either by mail or by electronic means. We have also been placed in the rooms of some special hotels – The Peninsula in Beverly Hills, The Pierre in New York, The Lowell in New York and The Milestone in London. This attracts many new subscribers.
You’ve been blogging about hotels and travel experiences for 32 years. What do you see as a difference between print and electronic publication?
Online publishing is so much easier from a production and fulfillment standpoint. We will eventually be entirely electronic. ENTREE via email has attracted a younger reader and that is always a good thing.
How does ENTREE compare to some of the newer online blogs?
The industry has exploded and it is filled with kids and amateurs. Today anyone with a computer who has a pulse can call themselves travel and food bloggers. This has allowed many people into the field – those who lack a point of view derived from real knowledge and experience. Frankly, I am bored with the egomaniacal one-upsmanship of the blogging world.
Nowadays, the role of the singular critic has been greatly diminished. Yet we still feel an expert voice from an experienced connoisseur far outweighs the ramblings of an amateur. Democracy in this case does not serve the consumer; every person does not have an equal right to weigh in on what is good and what is bad in travel and food. It’s like brain surgery: leave it to the experts.
How often do you travel each year? How do you select your destinations?
I travel somewhere very far away once a month and take two trips a month to places within a less demanding distance like New York, Jamaica, Paris or Mexico. I go where I like and where my readers express interest in. As we all know, flying has become a nightmare so I am less keen on spur-of-the-moment trips.
What changes have you experienced in the luxury hotel segment?
Far fewer hotels today cater to the true luxury traveler. A younger, less demanding clientele has led to deterioration in service and quality. There are exceptions everywhere, of course, but generally speaking today’s luxury hotels are more like amusement parks or settings for cocktail parties than they are true sanctuaries for elegant living.
For instance, few hotels provide fruit and free bottled water each day. This used to be standard operating procedure. The best hotels make up your bed on the day you are leaving. Today you are lucky if hotels make your bed up at all or provide proper turn down service.
Can you give us an example or two of memorable service?
All Red Carnation hotels sanitize their television remote controls and place them in plastic after each guest leaves. That’s what I call really caring for your guests. They also do a great job organizing your toiletries. It’s a real art.
At The Milestone in London, they come around with a basket of very large, very expensive soaps at check in. You get to choose your own. They also light candles by the tub each evening.
Where do you see hoteliers missing the boat, so to speak, insofar as catering to the independent traveler?
They miss the boat because they do not listen to the client. They do what they want to do to make money and not what the client needs to enjoy themselves. They also miss the mark because they ignore details. Hotels ought to provide a guest with an opportunity to live more graciously and comfortably than they do at home.
(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in eHotelier on January 30, 2014)