The British TV period drama Downton Abbey, which weaves stories around the lives of a fictional aristocratic family and their staff in the early 1900s, seems to have captured the imagination of luxury hotels worldwide. The series was featured as a Masterpiece Classic PBS program in the USA, and New York’s Oheka Castle luxury hotel in New York decided to offer its own Downton Abbey experience. It has created special “Aristocratic Escape Packages” where Lords and Ladies can be entertained in the manner befitting upper class gentry.
This pampering package includes overnight accommodation, afternoon tea, champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries and a copy of the drama series on DVD. Oheka Castle and Estate on Long Island is no stranger to an upmarket clientele. It was the setting for the marriage of Maude Kahn, elder daughter of Otto Kahn, to Scots Guard Major John Marriott in 1920 with a guest list straight from the Who’s Who of New York Society.
Other luxury hotels cashing in on popular TV series include the urban art hotel, Artists Residence, in Brighton England. It was featured in the Hotel Inspector TV series that shot a behind-the scenes-documentary and the hotel now basks in notoriety.
Similarly, the reality TV show Dancing with the Stars has prompted a spate of package weekend breaks with a dancing theme. Judges and professional contestants from the British version, Strictly Come Dancing, are guests at luxury country house hotels across Britain. Guests have two dance lessons before a performance, plus a Q&A session and photographs with the celebrities.
Four Seasons Atlanta and Whistler luxury hotels are giving their room service menus an overhaul – and guaranteeing a speedy delivery to your door. The new service aims to satisfy guests that are tight on time but need a hot snack.
The latest in-room menu will offer a range of fast-food items and guarantees the order will be delivered to your room within 15 minutes of ordering. Each Four Seasons hotel (and Luxique offers 52 of them worldwide) has a different twist on what to offer. For example the Four Seasons Hong Kong will have traditional quick and easy favourites such as wonton noodle soup with Chinese greens while the Four Seasons Hampshire England will lay on a typical British ploughman’s lunch. Hot snacks will include nachos with Winchester cheese and chive crème fraiche.
The second neat idea from Four Seasons is the “to go” menu which offers packed meals that are airline-friendly. Simply order from your room 15 minutes before checking out and pick up your meal-to-go at the front desk as you head for the airport.
Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North offers delicious portable lunches that will also suit guests wanting to enjoy a picnic as they enjoy the local sights. It includes tequila-lime chicken wrap with slaw, kettle chips, iced tea and a chocolate chip cookie.
The luxury travel market is suddenly being inundated with a new term – “Pop-up”. While the term is common in temporary pop-up seasonal shops, it is also now being applied to hotels. One British company calling itself the “Pop-Up Hotel” specializes in crafting temporary spaces for events and retreats, and other hotel chains are now joining in.
While temporary usually equates to cheap, in the case of the Papaya Playa Project in Mexico, it is anything but. Priced at up to $675 per night, the hotel group Design Hotels has created a pop-up hotel in a series of cabanas and casitas right on the beach at Tulum. Claiming that it offers a luxury “glamping” experience (being a type of glamorous camping) it does promise high thread count sheets, a spa incorporating Mayan shamanism and food from KaterHolzig, better known for its Berlin Bar 25 fame.
Design Hotel Founder Claus Sendlinger also plans to bring famous DJs and musicians to perform on the natural amphitheater on the beach, introduce an on-site designer boutique and offer the luxury traveler perks such as sustainable and organic food-on-the-go.
Not to be outdone, the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas luxury hotel is offering a Pop-Up Wedding Chapel for a short time. There is a choice of ceremonies: the Hitched in a Hurry economy package which includes a photo booth picture and space eraser rings, or the deluxe “Going to the Chapel” package which has a silk flower bouquet, logo tee shirts and party favors.
by Gillian at Luxique
According to the Miami New Times, luxury hotel breakfast buffets are being seriously affected by the economic downturn. Locals are apparently posing as guests and helping themselves to free hot breakfasts, muffins, bagels, fruit and whatever else may be on offer. Hotel General Managers in luxury hotels in Miami are reporting that the problem is worse in hotels where the buffet is on the first floor, or visible from street level.
Many luxury hotels have a two-tier system; free breakfast for those with room keys and a charge of anything from $12-30 for non-residents. In practise, these hotels rarely ask guests to show their room key. They simply ask for their room number before seating them, for fear of causing barely-conscious guests a bad start to their day. However, this is allowing brazen free-loaders the chance to enjoy a tasty breakfast for free on a regular basis.
Some on-the-ball restaurant managers in boutique hotels know all their guests on sight. However, many city hotels in Miami have a stream of one-night guests who are catching flights. Adam Zembruski, spokesperson for Pharos Hospitality was quoted as saying, “When I was GM, I was very hands on and knew most, if not all of my guests personally. More importantly, they knew me. So, I was out there at breakfast every day – and knew the regulars (so) the ‘outsiders’ stuck out like a sore thumb.” While some hotel managers involve the police, others either give the offender the bill or remove them as quietly as possible.
by Gillian at Luxique
Courtyard by Marriott was one of the first luxury hotel groups to redesign their dead lobby space into something more functional. So far they say the investment is paying off with a 50% increase in food and beverage revenues. As business and leisure guests spend more time socializing and ordering snacks and drinks in these public foyers, they have seen revenues from pay-per-view movies and room service drop. Overall, however, they report higher food and beverage sales that more than make up for the losses.
Business guests find the new social lobby spaces, often with private booths, are the perfect place to conduct business or socialize with colleagues. However some lobbies have fallen victim to their own success as they attract a hipper, more techno-savvy crowd. One guest complained that “a hotel should be a hotel. If I go to the front desk, I should be able to check in without running the gamut of people who are transacting business that has nothing to do with a front desk function.”
Another unhappy guest could not hear the desk clerk over the noise from the lobby. “Moving a nightclub into the lobby is too much,” he said.
More than 50% of guests currently make use of the Link@Sheraton lobby and computer lounge area. Competitor Starwood plans to create more library lobbies with comfortable sofas, space for speakers to lead meetings and a relaxed coffee/wine bar area.
As airlines tighten up on luggage excess and begin to charge per bag, guests are really appreciative of the new service at Westin luxury hotels and resorts. They have begun a rental service of New Balance sneakers and workout clothing to save guests having to pack bulky items. Sneakers are provided with brand new sports socks and replacement inner soles, and sports shirts are washed between workouts.
Fairmont Hotels are also addressing the idea and offer Adidas gear free to elite members of its loyalty program, or $10 per stay for all other guests.
The idea of guests carrying less luggage seems to have snowballed, as the Four Seasons Chicago is one of several luxury hotels to provide a storage service for repeat guests, charging only for laundering and pressing. This new service is certainly one way to guarantee customer loyalty from returning guests.
The Trump SoHo in New York also appreciates the need to assist with guest’s wardrobe dilemmas and uses the valet company Garde Robe to store guest’s garments between visits. All these services are sure to eliminate the difficulty of traveling with bulky suitcases, as well as saving on excess luggage fees.
The Hampton Inn and Suites at Wesley Chapel, Florida also sympathises with guests getting hit with excess baggage charges. They have installed a luggage scale in the lobby and provide postal boxes for shipping excess items home to minimise airport charges. It seems that travelling light is the new way to go.
Luxury hotel chain Hyatt has joined with Michelle Obama, Honorary Chair for Partnership with Healthier America, in creating new healthier menus for children. Currently Hyatt Hotels serves nearly 3 million children as guests in their hotels each year. They now pledge to provide a children’s menu with an “improved nutritional profile” in the fight against childhood obesity.
Changes that Hyatt guests will notice include making non-fat and low-fat milk available with free refills, alongside sodas. The children’s menu will be headed with a meal option that meets the MyPlate Federal guidelines for low-calorie healthy food and Hyatt will ensure that illustrations depict the nutritious options. Other changes in the menu should see fruit and vegetables arriving automatically on a child’s plate instead of fries or chips, and french toast will be made from wholegrain bread rather than white bread as at present.
Adult guests are not exempt from the new healthier standards as Hyatt vows to revamp recipes to reduce calories, sugar and sodium. They already serve cage-free eggs in all restaurant and room-service options. All Park Hyatt and Grand Hyatt properties will have the new improved menus in place by the end of 2012 and the hotel aims to reduce calorie intake by 10% across all its menus within three years. Kimpton Hotels has a Healthy Choice Menu with all choices under 500 calories and the Pierre in New York is also featuring lower calorie dishes.
While promoting these new healthy options is commendable, will it really impress loyal guests? And will other movers and shakers in the luxury hotel industry follow the Hyatt’s lead?
As airlines cut back on VIP services, luxury hotels are stepping in to fill the gap by offering new airport services to their valued guests. One of the first luxury hotels to see the need for a resident airport concierge was the Peninsula Beverly Hills. They now employ a team of five staff to meet guests at Los Angeles International Airport and help departing guests by securing better seats or helping with minor emergencies. The airport concierge service is free on arrival but departing guests are charged $100 per family for speeding them through security and giving them access to private airport lounges.
Luxury hotels in Jamaica, including the Island Outpost Hotel and Round Hill Hotel and Villas offer a similar Club Mobay service at Montego Bay Airport. For $30, departing guests can enjoy speedy processing through security and immigration and can relax in the private hotel lounge with Wi-Fi internet access, a mini-spa and a kid’s corner. The Four Seasons Marrakesh goes one better and whisks its guests out of the line at immigration to a VIP lounge where their passports are checked in comfort. Guests are catching on and are choosing to stay in luxury hotels which offer these valued extras.
As in-flight food becomes an optional extra, luxury hotels are also offering meals-to-go. The Jefferson in Washington D.C., the Four Seasons Seattle and the Montage Deer Valley in Park City, Utah are all offering delicious lunch boxes for passengers to enjoy in the airport lounge or onboard. Treats include sandwiches made with Creminelli salami, homemade granola bars and honey pops made by the hotel’s resident beekeeper!
With occupancy levels at around 70% in luxury hotels in California, many are now encouraging guests looking for extended stays to fill rooms. Historically, luxury chains such as Rosewood Hotels and Resorts shied away from encouraging long-term guests but now they are welcomed with open arms as business has yet to return to pre-recession levels.
The Surrey Hotel and Spa in New York added kitchens to its suites during a recent upgrade and has seen long-term stays increase by 50% year-on-year. There are many reasons guests are choosing to stay long-term in luxury hotels. Employees working on projects away from home, recent divorcees, those visiting a city for medical treatment or people finding themselves homeless after a disaster such as flooding are all likely to prefer a luxury hotel over a short-term rental. Relocating families unable to sell their home and those choosing to renovate rather than move up are also likely long-stay guests.
Although visitors staying more than 30 days may negotiate high discounts, they are likely to spend more on additional services, such as butler service, room service, dining and laundry, which all help keep staff gainfully employed. The Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park, California added five villas in its grounds to accommodate long-term guests and it is certainly paying off. The Rosewood Crescent Hotel in Dallas accommodates long-stay guests by providing extra clothing racks and the Mansion on Peachtree, a Rosewood Hotel in Atlanta, is happy to hang guest’s artworks in their rooms.
One long-term guest finds staying at the Pelican Hill in Newport Beach extremely convenient. If he has had too many cocktails, he calls the concierge and requests a pickup in the hotel’s staff-driven Escalade. Pelican Hill struggled after opening in the depths of the economic downturn and has survived by offering discounts for stays over a month. Rooms regularly priced at $745 are $263 a night although turn-down and butler service are extra.
Once upon a time a 90-minute massage or day at the spa was the norm. Now less is more. Many luxury hotel spas have introduced new express services of 30 minutes or less and have found they are extremely popular with guests.
Business travelers generally find that time is a precious commodity, yet being away from home, working long hours and dealing with stressful meetings means they are more in need than ever of relaxation and a massage. Smart city center hotels are seeing the potential to serve stressed and time-pressed guests with speedy treatments.
According to the International SPA Association, about 75% of spas surveyed say they now offer express treatments of 30 minutes or less and the demand has skyrocketed. Another reason why the shorter treatments are popular could be the lower cost, with many business travelers and spa-goers watching their budget. Also, many business guests do not want to book a service ahead of time and shorter appointments mean more people can be accommodated on demand at peak times.
Studies show that even a 15-minute massage can reduce tension headaches, anxiety and stress making these express services well worth the modest cost. Of course, Virgin passengers with first class tickets can enjoy a 15-minute treatment free when passing through Heathrow Airport.