Travel Channel’s reality show Hotel Impossible wrapped up filming at Juneau’s famed Alaskan Hotel this weekend. KTOO’s Lisa Phu caught up with the show’s host and designer during their third day of shooting and has this story.
Anthony Melchiorri is the host of Hotel Impossible.
“If people are looking for this hotel to be restored, to come into the lobby and see it completely redone, and just, ‘Oh my god,’ that’s not going to happen,” he says.
Most TV viewers want to see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ effect of a hotel makeover, but Melchiorri says his job is more about what’s not as obvious.
“My show is not about renovation. My show is about repositioning hotels and really giving them the plans to move forward. I’m more interested in the infrastructure of the operations and how people communicate and deal with each other. My job is to reengage the spirit of the hotel,” explains Melchiorri.
The Alaskan Hotel in downtown Juneau opened one-hundred-years ago and is the oldest operating hotel in the state. Owners Bettye Adams bought the hotel in 1977 with her husband Mike; it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
“I think of the hotel as beyond wood and nails. It is organic, it is a process, it’s a state of mind, it’s a historic museum, it’s a family,” says Bettye Adams.
Adams remembers the phone call that got her on Hotel Impossible.
“The first thing that the fellow said, ‘Well, how would you like an hour on the Travel Channel on national television?’ and I went, ‘Hmmm, let me think about that – yes,’” she says laughing.
After she accepted the offer in August, Adams says she watched episodes of the show and got nervous about being humiliated on television. By the third day of shooting, Adams was over it.
“You just have to decide that they’re going to stomp on your ego and let it go,” she says.
That same day, Melchiorri says he was about to have a nervous breakdown.
“Every single time I take over a hotel on this show, I feel like I’m going to throw up. People think this is fake. Ask anyone I dealt with today if this is a fake show. I isolate myself. I don’t speak to anyone unless the cameras are rolling and I don’t know what they’re going to say or what I’m going to say.”
Outside of television, Melchiorri is a hotel consultant. He’s managed numerous hotels, including the New York Plaza, and was senior vice president of a hotel management company.
When asked what he thinks is a challenge for the Alaskan, “The bar is loud, and when you have 45 rooms sitting on top of a bar, that’s like a bear wrestling a fish, the bear always wins, so that’s a problem,” Melchiorri says.
On the positive side, Hotel Impossible designer Blanche Garcia says the hotel’s historic value is a strength.
“As a designer, you get a lot of inspiration, so I, of course, would not put a New York SoHo loft in here, whatever I did, or put grass on the walls or things like that, so you’re working apropos to the area,” she says.
Will the beloved Alaskan bar be part of the makeover? Nope, says hotel owner Adams.
“I think the bar would stand up and just resist. No, it’s not going to change,” Adams says.
The episode at the Alaskan Hotel will kick off Hotel Impossible’s fourth season which will air sometime next year.
This is the second Alaska hotel to be featured on the show. Hotel Impossible worked on Yakutat’s Glacier Bear Lodge in 2012. Melchiorri says that was the show’s highest rated episode.