Former president Barack Obama manages to come off as a relatable everyman despite being one of the most famous figures on the planet. Maybe it’s because the D.C. resident undulates gracefully between high- and lowbrow pleasures. That dichotomy carries over into his hotel preferences.
Speaking in Atlanta at a conference hosted by the U.S. Green Building Council on Wednesday morning, Obama shared that sometimes he’d rather stay in a Hampton Inn than a presidential suite, citing luxury hotels’ complicated lighting situations.
“Before I go to bed, [I] go from room to room to turn off all the lights, and there are a bunch of different lamps, and sometimes they hide where the light switches are because they want to make them look really cool,” Obama said, according to a transcript provided by his office. “And it might take me 15 minutes to shut down, where if I was just in the Hampton Inn, there’s like one light switch, one bathroom door, and the bed, and the TV remote; I’m good.”
A lot of travelers can relate. Many have encountered a rage-inducing, counterintuitive coffee maker, shower handle or ironing board at a new hotel. At high-end properties, those problems don’t disappear, they just present themselves more glamorously. The thread count on the bed may be higher, but you still can’t figure out how to turn off all the lights.
“That is a good example of how we think, somehow, we are better off,” Obama said. “No, I want to get to bed.”
What the Hampton Inn offers is consistency. You know what you’re going to get every time. Obama and MLB scouts and pharmaceutical reps can expect to show up to a Hampton Inn and get the same bed, the same towels and the same waffles, whether they’re in Arkansas or Alaska.
And, unlike presidential suites, Hampton Inns have only a room or two, not a labyrinth of luxury.
“These presidential suites — there are so many rooms and I get lost,” Obama said.
Just like business dads, Obama has been a Hampton Inn fan for decades. He’s been a repeat guest at the Hampton Inn near Des Moines. At the Littleton, N.H., Hampton Inn, there’s a framed photo of the former president posing with hotel staff members. With more than 2,500 properties in 29 countries, there are plenty of Hampton Inns for the former president to visit.
“We have a long history of U.S. presidents visiting and staying at our properties, and we’re pleased that President Obama has also had a Hampton guest experience. We’d welcome him back any time,” Hilton’s corporate communications vice president, Nigel Glennie, told The Washington Post in an email. “In fact, many of my D.C. friends speak to it being a feature on political campaigns, given Hamptons are in so many locations. Most people remember the hot breakfasts, including the famous Hampton waffles!"
But despite his frustration with their chic flaws, Obama still acknowledges the good in presidential suites.
“Some of them are very nice and beautiful; they do typically have the best views because they are very high up — they are wonderfully appointed.”