If there is one thing a hotelier dislikes more than a guest departing without paying, it is a guest dying on the premises. Police might be involved if there is any suspicion at all about the death and, even if there is not, there will be inevitable disruption for guests and staff. The atmosphere can become very gloomy.
When a celebrity is involved, the whole issue can become a nightmare. The press might lay siege to the hotel making normal life for other guests all but impossible.
Then there is the tricky question of what to do with the room where the guest died. Do you just give it a normal clean and get on with business as usual?
The Ritz in London have handled the death of Baroness Thatcher with admirable discretion. Since the event was hardly unexpected, the hotel has been spared the barrage of unwelcome publicity that often accompanies such events. But they will still have to decide what to do with the room.
No doubt the staff are under strict instructions not to discuss any details but the room number will become known. Will people want to stay in that room or will they avoid it at all costs?
Other hotels have had more than their share of celebrity deaths. The Amsterdam Hilton is famous not just for John and Yoko’s love-in but also a number of deaths including the rather spectacular suicide of a rock star who jumped off the roof. Thousands of onlookers lined the streets when his body was taken away.
The Ritz-Carlton in Sydney will be remembered by many for the death of Paula Yates’ partner, Michael Hutchence while the Chateau Mormont in Los Angeles might enjoy its reputation for celebrity excess but is no doubt less happy when its guests over-indulge and die on the premises as happened to John Belushi.
The hotel with the worst recent record for celebrity deaths is probably the Beverly Hills Hilton. Room 435 will long be remembered as the room where Whitney Houston died. They must have guests who want to stay on the same floor or visit the scene.
And it is not just deaths that cause hoteliers to lose sleep. The Sofitel in New York could not have been best pleased about the publicity involved when Dominique Strauss-Kahn had his alleged fling with a maid. Nor can they have been too happy when police published forensic results which showed that carpets in the room had the traces of semen from five different men – there was no suggestion that anyone other than Mr Strauss-Kahn was involved in the actual incident.
Hotels love publicity but there are times when they really would prefer to avoid it.