• Emily Goldfischer

Why "The White Lotus" is So Haunting for Hoteliers

If you work in the hotel business and you've not yet watched "The White Lotus" by Mike White, stop reading this and go grab your remote or iPad. The show cuts so close to the bone for hoteliers, it has been the subject of multiple posts on the Facebook "Hospitality Family" group, one of which had over 100 comments.

The White Lotus HBO
Image courtesy of HBO Max

The New Yorker critic Naomi Fry hails the "brilliant, biting social satire" as one of the "best TV shows of the year." In short, the six-part series is about a fictional five-star resort in Hawaii––actually filmed during COVID-closures at the Four Seasons Maui––which traces the interactions of the resort staff and the wealthy guests to unravel a death revealed in the opening scene.


"I can't describe it as anything other than haunting, we need a support group," a friend tells me who runs a five-star resort on the west coast now but worked at a luxury resort in Hawaii for several years. "It's so real. Everything on the show has happened or could have happened, running a luxury hotel is just one step away from all of the scenes."


The tragic-comedy touches on everything from White privilege and racism to the legacy of Imperialism, as seen through the lens of characters who are either self-obsessed, plagued by self-doubt, or in the midst of some sort of breakdown.


And for luxury hoteliers, the scenes and characters are all too real, comments one on Facebook, "I felt like we’ve all had bad days at hotels and that one guest who can’t leave well enough alone."


Without giving too much away, the show’s main storylines center around the stressed Hotel Manager Armond, who at the outset tells the new trainee Lani, a native Hawaiian on her first day, to "make each guest feel like the special chosen baby child of the hotel,” and the staff interactions with the entitled guests: honeymooners facing the reality of each other after a whirlwind wedding, the successful tech couple with woke teens on a family 'reconnection' trip, and a distraught heiress who's come to spread her dead mother's ashes in the Hawaiian sea.


Armond's character hits so many nerves, the actor, Murray Bartlett tells The Guardian, he drew on his time working in the service industry. “I was a waiter and a bartender. I had good experiences; not everyone was awful,” he says. “But there were always those experiences where you just notice people in this position of slight power, or they feel as if they’re entitled to something, and they treat you like shit.”


As for the scenes that seem almost too realistic: double booking of the best suite, random guest and employee hook-ups, a lost backpack stuffed with recreational drugs, employees coming to work hung-over...to name a few, the genius of the show lies in its ability to take each incident to the extreme.


The truth is, “guests come on vacation for an emotional clearinghouse and that baggage can be hard for staff to carry,” says our friend the luxury GM.


Bottom line: the appeal of the show mirrors working in hospitality, you just never know what kind of crazy sh*t might happen on any given day. HBO has approved a second season which will be filmed elsewhere with a new cast...and we can’t wait to check-in!