Royal Hotel Visits! Or, What happens if you are stuck in an elevator with Royalty?
Meeting VIP’s can be one of the exciting perks of working in hospitality but Royal hotel visits, are a whole other experience!
Get ready to learn new jargon, such as what it means when Princess Anne needs to “tidy”. Who should be called Ma’am or Sir, and who shouldn’t. And what you can and can’t do, or should or shouldn’t do.
Now I Am sure that, just like me, you were never taught at school or college, what to say when you meet Royalty. Or what to do when you have royal hotel visits. After all, its not going to happen every day is it?
If you ever find yourself in the situation of a pending Royal hotel visit or stay, don’t panic. But be ready to learn quickly. Because there will be new protocols and expectations given ahead of their arrival.
During my time as Regional Sales Director, with Ramada International in Doha, Qatar I was fortunate enough to meet many Dignitaries. I met Heads of State, Celebrities, Sports Personalities and YES! I even got to experience a few Royal hotel visits.
One Royal visit resulted in a Royal Pardon!!
What on earth did I do that needed a Royal Pardon?
Well, I will tell you ….
The Ramada Renaissance, in Doha, had been chosen by the British Embassy in Qatar to host a special lunch for his Royal Highness the Duke of Kent. The Duke was on a week long tour of the Arabian Gulf.
An informal lunch was to be held in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom, with a few local dignitaries and 300 local UK Ex-pats, who were working in Qatar. All the arrangements and security procedures had been put in place weeks before the event. But then, as usual, they were all changed again on the morning of the Duke’s arrival.
The plan was that the Duke would fly the short “hop” from Bahrain to Qatar, that morning. He was being flown around the Gulf States in a RAF Hawker Siddeley 748; a turbo prop aircraft of the Queen’s Flight.
It was not the speediest, and definitely not the most comfortable way to travel (they have since equipped the Queen’s Flight with modern jet aircraft)!
We were all waiting in line outside the Hotel to greet him. The British Ambassador’s white Jaguar, the only one in the Gulf at that time, pulled up right on time. Out got the British Ambassador, followed by the Duke.
Royal Protocol dictates that you stand where you are told. And you don’t speak unless you are spoken to first. I was standing second in line, after the Sheikh, waiting to be presented to the Duke. The Ambassador duly introduced me as another UK Ex-pat and we then all walked into the Hotel’s vast Lobby with his entourage following. We walked the Duke to the waiting elevator, to take him up to the Royal Suite so he could freshen up before lunch.
Once we boarded the elevator, I asked how his flight was. The Dukes reply, whilst being diplomatic, was less than complimentary about the old aircraft. He said that the aircraft had the ability to find every single air pocket (; turbulence), whilst it flew him around the Gulf States.
Once he was in the Royal Suite the Duke turned to me and asked “Mr Savage could I ask an enormous favor of you?”
“Your Royal Highness, if it is within my power, then I am only too pleased to assist you”
The Duke explained: “Well, you see, my Equerry has broken his sunglasses on the flight over from Bahrain. And we need to replace them for him before we leave”
Being the good hotelier I had to think of a solution for this problem: “Well Sir” I said. “All the shops in the Hotel’s Shopping Arcade are closed for the duration of your visit. As Security Protocol dictates. But whilst you are having lunch, I am sure I can break into one, with the help of one of my Security Managers!”
I then joked: “However, will I get a Royal Pardon for committing this crime?”
A smile spread across his face, and he said: “I am sure we can arrange something for you!”
Conversation over, we walked back to the waiting elevator to go down to lunch. On the long descent from the Royal Suite, the elevator came to a sudden and juddering halt. And the alarm sounded!
The Duke was first to break the stunned silence, asking: “By the way, what’s for lunch today?”
I replied: “I took the opportunity to study the previous lunch menus for your trip so far. And I saw that most lunches served lamb, steak or fish. We have decided on a traditional English menu today, as we have an all UK Ex-pat attendance. We will be serving Steak & Kidney Pudding….”
The Duke responded: “That’s a terrific choice! I think I have eaten enough fish this last week, to last me a lifetime!”
We shared a little more small talk. And then the reluctant elevator decided to start descending again. Just as suddenly as it had stopped! The Duke and his party went into lunch whilst the Security Manager and I went off …… to break into the shop!
The Lunch was a huge success. Although the Duke was only scheduled to stay for 2 hours, he was still there 3 hours later, walking around the tables and chatting freely to all the Ex-pats.
The break-in, however, was not so successful.
In the end the Maintenance Department had to remove the door, so that I could get inside and pick a selection of sunglasses. The Duke’s Equerry chose a pair he liked and thanked me profusely.
The Duke thanked me for the superb hospitality. He and the British Ambassador then left for the airport for the Queen’s Flight back to Bahrain. Followed by an onward flight to London with British Airways.
Ten days later, the British Ambassador’s First Attaché invited me to attend the British Embassy. There, the Ambassador greeted me warmly and handed me an official letter, with the Royal Seal of Kensington Palace, London on it.
Inside was a wonderful letter, thanking me and the Hotel for our hospitality during his Royal Hotel visit. At the end, in his own handwriting the letter finished with:
“John, please take this as your Royal Pardon for having to break into that shop!”