Have you ever wondered which hotels famous people, dignitaries, or important international figures choose to stay in? I don’t usually ponder these questions, but recently, I had an experience that DID get me wondering. I hope you’ll enjoy this story about His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, staying at MY home hotel.
I’ve seen the Dalai Lama in person twice. Once was 20 years ago when he gave a talk in NYC. Then I saw him again 6 years ago when he gave a talk at the University of Hawaii. Earlier this year, the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) reached out to the Dalai Lama and asked if he’d give the commencement speech at graduation, and much to everyone’s surprise and delight, he accepted this invitation. So in mid-June, the Dalai Lama was in San Diego.
Strangely enough, or maybe not so strangely as we travel geeks do seem to have weird conversations with ourselves and anyone else who will listen, I did ask myself where the Dalai Lama would stay for his long weekend here in San Diego. I thought maybe someone had given the Dalai Lama and his staff their private home to use. But security would be complicated. Then I thought about his needing to be at UCSD and the thought crossed my mind that maybe he’d stay at my home hotel, the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine. It’s just down the hill from UCSD.
I didn’t get to see his commencement speech in person. Instead, I decided to see if it had been recorded so I could watch it online. Sure enough, it was – thank you YouTube!
After watching his talk, I found another video of him being interviewed. And holy cow, there he was, just outside the front door to my home hotel! I call this my home hotel because I love this place, stay there often, and let’s just say everyone knows my name. (Grant can vouch for me!)
I decided it would be fun, once the events were over, to head over to the Hyatt, and talk to the people who work there and ask them what it was like when the Dalai Lama stayed there. How do events like this get handled? How does it impact their guests? My curious nature had me wondering what happens at a hotel during times like this. I found it very interesting, and I hope you do too.
The front desk staff was given a couple of month’s notice of his arrival, but of course, this information was to be kept quiet. Besides Hyatt security, the San Diego police, and the Secret Service were present. The Dalai Lama also has his own security people. He got a police escort everywhere he went. His party used a whole floor of the hotel.
The guests at the hotel were not told the Dalai Lama was there, but of course, given the huge numbers of people waiting in the lobby each day (sometimes hundreds) to see the Dalai Lama, they must have realized who was staying there. The Hyatt staff told me that the people waiting to see the Dalai Lama each day were supporters, not protesters. This made it easier for them. People were able to take photos with the Dalai Lama, but were not allowed to use their phones to take the photos.
The Hyatt women who staff the Hyatt Club Lounge were not given notice ahead of time about the Dalai Lama’s stay at the hotel, but the Dalai Lama did come by the lounge with his security team! The staff told me he was really nice, how beautiful his robes were, and that even though he was old, his face and energy were so young. They also told me that the Dalai Lama staff cleaned up after themselves in the lounge and were very polite. The lounge staff told me the Dalai Lama brings his own people to cook for him, so they thought his own cooks used the Hyatt kitchen. Wow, can you imagine if I had been there in the lounge at that time? That would have been something special.
As for the Hyatt staff going in and out of the hotel each day, I wondered if they were subjected to special security measures. They said it wasn’t too bad because the Hyatt security team worked with the other security teams. Of course, the Hyatt employees were known to hotel security, so getting in and out of the hotel wasn’t too time consuming.
I asked the Hyatt staff what other kinds of celebrities / famous people had stayed at their hotel. They told me musicians, actors, and sports teams. Some of the Hyatt employees I know have been there 20+ years, so they’ve seen it all. But they said the Dalai Lama is in his own category and they were glad to have worked shifts when he was there. The young men who work at the Hyatt told me they were more excited when their favorite sports teams stayed at the Hyatt, I appreciated their honesty :) And I appreciated my home hotel staff honoring my request to chat with them about the Dalai Lama’s stay and their experience. They are an amazing team!
Even with all the many hotel stays I’ve had at various hotels and in various locations, unless I missed something, I haven’t been at a hotel when anything like this has been going on. Have you? What was it like? Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!