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I recently spent a long weekend in Colombo, Sri Lanka, meeting business partners, sightseeing, and also catching up with one of my Glion Online MBA colleagues.

Business appeared to be booming in and around Colombo and many existing hotels are being refurbished or expanded. International chains previously not present in the city are busy planning and building new properties. I stayed at the Galadari Hotel in the heart of the city and my room overlooked the site of the future Shangri-La Colombo.

Sri Lanka is a very popular tourist destination and I have little doubt that the new properties will do well, yet I’m not sure I’ll be booking a room in the new Shangri-La, Sheraton, or Mövenpick when I next travel to Colombo. I think I’d rather stay in a locally flagged hotel, which offers an experience I won’t be able to find in other cities around the world and affords glimpses of the city beyond the big brands, standardized welcomes, and homogeneous bathroom amenities.

Travelling, whether for leisure or business, is one of my favourite pastimes and, in my opinion, is made even better by truly unique and individual accommodation experiences. Let’s face it, you can stay in an Ibis, Travelodge, Holiday Inn, or Sheraton in virtually every big city in the world, but isn’t staying in a hotel supposed to be part of the entire overall destination experience? Every time I stay in a unique and (often) independently operated hotel, I seem to get a better ‘feel’ for the destination and the otherwise often somewhat utilitarian act of staying in a hotel becomes part of my overall memories of a trip.

Over the years, I have stayed in several very nice hotels, which are one-offs and provided stay experiences never to be found anywhere else in the world.

In New Mexico, I took a room in the historic Blue Swallow Motel, an ever more rare piece of small-town roadside Americana.


The hotel has been serving travellers since 1939 and also featured in the movie “Cars”. The hotel’s owner even had a voice-over role in the movie.

Also in the US, though many more moons ago, I had the great fortune of stumbling across the Desert Inn Motel, which sits bang in the empty middle of Florida. The inn is in the National Register of Historic Places and has a long history as a trading post, railroad crossing, and at one time, even housed a brothel. The latter is a museum today and the barstaff will be happy to give you a tour.

More recently, I stayed at the Las Casas de la Judería in Seville, Spain. The hotel consists of 27 houses in the city’s old Jewish quarter, which are all connected by (sometimes underground) walkways and courtyards. Upon arrival, guests are given a map of the property so they don’t get lost on the way to their rooms and I could have happily spend half a day just discovering the different parts of the hotel.

What’s next on my travel list? I’d love to stay in the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, or at the Hang Nga Hotel in Vietnam.

Do you have any suggestions for hotels that aren’t just ‘run of the mill’? Want to stay in touch? I’m on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Facebook – you’re welcome to connect & share!

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About the author

Glion Institute of Higher Education
Glion Institute of Higher Education is a private Swiss institution offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in hospitality, luxury and event management to an international student body across three campuses in Switzerland and London, UK.
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