A Man Who Spends 100% of His Nights in Hotels Shares His Booking Secrets
Khalid Meniri, the founder of Selfbook, shares his best hotel hacks
Khalid Meniri is a well traveled man.
After growing up in Algeria, he moved to New York early in his career to work as an app developer for major brands like Unilever and Moda Operandi. Later, he ventured out on his own and started a popular travel app called Six Travel, which allowed users to book travel experiences in a seamless fashion right from their phones. It was a groundbreaking app changing the antiquated digital hotel booking system, which, if you’ve ever booked a hotel from your computer, you know can be a very clunky process.
Originally a B2C company, they were obviously impacted by COVID-19 and realized their platform had more possibilities as a B2B service, helping hospitality companies make booking a simpler process. Through the app and the new company, Selfbook, for which he acts as CEO and co-founder, he kicked his traveling into overdrive, visiting partners and clients all over the world. Since 2020 he hasn’t had a permanent home, and he’s spent nearly all his nights in hotels. As you can imagine, he’s seen some shit. And he has a more intimate understanding of the inner workings of hotels than your typical business traveler.
So we figured we would dial him up and ask for some of his favorite tips and tricks to make the hotel experience better.
InsideHook: What is the best way to get VIP treatment?
Khalid Meniri: The doorman will give you the best treatment if you remember their name and recognize them. Just like you expect hotels to provide a hospitable experience and to not be transactional, do the same for them. Be hospitable as well, be a guest worthy of their time as much as you are worthy of their service.
When you call room service, ask for their names. Ask gently. The head of housekeeping is probably the single most important person. They will go above and beyond and create a luxury experience with things like fresher, newer towels typically reserved for VIPs if you take care of them and are gracious. Tipping everyone at the hotel is also so important. Make sure you tip maids, as people take them for granted because they are not as visible as front desk staff, and the hotel’s invisible army is one that we need to consider… Tipping is also very much appreciated and encouraged.
Any tips for getting room upgrades? (aside from loyalty program stuff)
Two words: Book direct. Hotels will always treat you best if you book direct, or if you go through a travel agent, rather than booking through an OTA.
If you book direct or book with a travel agent, they will take care of you and you will be the most important person in the hotel. If you booked through an OTA, tell them you would love to book directly next time. Direct booking customers and travel agent customers are always higher priority and have so much power.
What about DIY room upgrades?
Something I tend to make use of the most if it’s among the hotel’s amenities is a candle. It creates “hygge,” and adds a sense of being at a home away from home. I’m actually not a fan of hotels that have strong olfactory branding — I find it to be a bit too much — but I do appreciate the option to create that by lighting a candle.
What’s something you didn’t learn about staying in hotels until you stayed in so many of them?
I initially thought the formality of luxury hotels and their staff would be intimidating, but it’s the opposite. They are genuinely kind, love what they do and wouldn’t want to do anything else. Formality in service is the ultimate sign of respect for both the guests and the job — it exemplifies the staff’s passion for what they do.
In my opinion, the best service is at Ett Hem in Stockholm, which happens to be more congenial. The staff is incredibly hospitable and friendly, and there is no doorman with golden lapels. There is simply a bell that you ring, and whoever is passing by will open the door, whether it’s a maid, a cook, or the hotel owner.
What is the one thing you always pack to make your hotel stay more enjoyable?
I always pack a flashlight. It’s a little piece of utility to make me feel at home. It’s a designer flashlight stolen from Miss Clara hotel in Sweden, which is designed with the “lagom” mindset, meaning just the right amount of things.
Any services offered by most hotels that people should use more?
I love pools that are open to non-guests because you get to meet locals, and it provides more of a community feeling.
The hotel concierge is also a vault of knowledge that most people don’t take advantage of nearly enough. Concierges have ins with local spots where they send guests, so if you ask for their recommendations, you can leverage the relationship they already have with a given restaurant or bar, for instance. One of my most memorable concierge-led moments happened when I was staying at Provocateur Hotel in Berlin. We ended up finding ourselves in a bunker where Hitler used to hide, and which is now a private art gallery. This was all because of our concierge’s insider knowledge, because you can’t really find it or go there without a proper in.
What is your favorite way to research hotels to stay in?
Being in the business, I try to visit the hotels we’re talking to for Selfbook, so that’s a biased answer. Pre-Selfbook, I would meet incredible people from around the world through industry conferences and gain a lot of inspiration that way.
I generally love to get ideas from friends and the people I’ve met along the way in my career. Ben Pundole and Tansy Kaschak who run A Hotel Life are a great resource for discovering hotels worldwide.
Any room descriptor red flags to look out for when booking a room?
If you don’t require an accessible room, make sure you don’t accept an ADA room. When you check in and they say they can give you an upgrade with a higher ceiling, wider bathroom, or in the corner, ask if it’s ADA so you can make sure it remains available for those who need it.
What should one do to get the best results if they get to their room and are unsatisfied with it for any reason?
There’s nothing worse than staying in and paying for a room you’re not satisfied with, but know that the hotel is doing their best and they are not trying to trick you — they genuinely love being hospitable. If you are considering switching rooms, be friendly and make sure you speak to the staff before settling into your room, or they might have to clean it twice. It’s also important to consider whether it is a busy time or a weekend. If the answer is yes, then you’re likely stuck with it unless you want to pay more.
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