For high-end ho­tels, ameni­ties make the stay

Ameni­ties used to be “just soap and sham­poo,” but for up­scale ho­tels to­day they can make all the dif­fer­ence

Business Traveler (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Keith Lo­ria

Ho­tels are on a win­ning streak: De­mand is up, ca­pac­ity is tight and – un­for­tu­nately for T&E bud­gets – room rates are ris­ing. Hote­liers who re­call those gloomy skies that over­hung the world’s econ­omy in 2009 are, as the say­ing goes, mak­ing hay while the sun shines.

How­ever, all this ac­tiv­ity is pro­duc­ing some ex­cit­ing news for the business trav­eler. New open­ings are an­nounced ev­ery week and thou­sands of new prop­er­ties are in the pipe­line and al­ready un­der con­struc­tion.

Beyond that, en­tirely new brands are com­ing to the mar­ket. As more ho­tels are en­ter­ing this al­ready crowded fray, hos­pi­tal­ity brands are all look­ing for ways to set them­selves apart. And the right ameni­ties can make all the dif­fer­ence.

Con­fronted with ho­tels choices aplenty, what many road-weary business trav­el­ers are look­ing for goes beyond just a cookie cut­ter bed-in-a-box. They want that some­thing ex­tra – pam­per­ing, perks and those fringe ben­e­fits which make life on the road more liv­able.

That’s why of late the fo­cus of most ho­tel brands, es­pe­cially at the high-end of the scale, has turned to ameni­ties, and on cre­ative and unique ways to of­fer those ex­tra touches to their guests.

“It used to be just soap and sham­poo, but to­day there’s just a dif­fer­ent def­i­ni­tion about what an amenity means,”ac­cord­ing to Hy­att Times Square’s gen­eral man­ager Richard Mor­gan.“For ex­am­ple, it’s rain­ing to­day, so ev­ery­one in the ho­tel is go­ing to find an um­brella wait­ing for them in the lobby, some­thing they re­ally need. We no

longer look at it as hav­ing what we think a guest wants, but will look at it as what­ever the guest wants, we will have it.”

Bet­ter Than Home

As much as ameni­ties can dif­fer­en­ti­ate ho­tel brands, hote­liers also use their brands’iden­ti­ties to shape what ameni­ties they of­fer and how they of­fer them. For ex­am­ple, Hy­att rooms dis­play an amenity card list­ing ev­ery­thing a business trav­eler could need – 32 items rang­ing from de­odor­ant to a wine opener to slip­pers – all ready to be de­liv­ered in five min­utes. There are also items like a hu­mid­i­fier, a lighted make-up mir­ror, a yoga mat, free weights and com­puter charg­ers.

“We don’t want to flood the room with stuff they don’t need, but ask and we will get it,”Mor­gan says.“Our cus­tomers would like us to be like home as much as pos­si­ble, or bet­ter than home.”

Business trav­el­ers have high ex­pec­ta­tions

con­ve­nience, tech­nol­ogy ca­pa­bil­i­ties and unique of­fer­ings. At IHG’s new EVEN Ho­tels brand, ameni­ties are se­lected based on their ap­peal to well­ness-minded trav­el­ers, which is why it of­fers an in-room

“To­day there’s just a dif­fer­ent def­i­ni­tion about what an amenity means.” Blu pam­pers guests with spe­cial ameni­ties de­signed to ac­com­mo­date the in­trepid trav­eler, such as gourmet cof­fee from the in-room Ne­spresso ma­chine.

Mean­while Four Sea­sons is fo­cused on the sleep ex­pe­ri­ence. Guests can choose a mat­tress sys­tem – com­bin­ing spe­cialty top­pers, gel-foam tech­nol­ogy and dif­fer­ent lev­els of firm­ness – from a line cre­ated specif­i­cally for the brand by Sim­mons. The brand also of­fers spe­cialty pillows, noise ma­chines and bed­side ameni­ties.

The re­quire­ments of business trav­el­ers are of­ten unique – and chal­leng­ing. It’s also an op­por­tu­nity for a ho­tel to set it­self apart. So whether the business guest needs a suit at the last minute, an im­mu­nity boost from be­ing jet-lagged or run-down, or some­thing spe­cial to wow dur­ing a meet­ing, the St. Regis At­lanta has de­vel­oped ameni­ties and meet­ings/ pack­ages pro­grams that specif­i­cally cater to th­ese ex­pec­ta­tions.

The St. Regis of­fers ameni­ties to business trav­eler that in­clude an“on-the-go” Ge­or­gia Power Bar crafted by the ho­tel’s pas­try chef; a business-cen­tric room ser­vice menu, that comes com­plete with phone charg­ers; tai­lored Sid Mash­burn suits for the next day’s meet­ing or next business

im­mune sys­tem; and tech’d out ca­banas at Blue­tooth con­nec­tion.

“Our staff is ac­cus­tomed to the ex­ec­u­tive trav­eler, and our team un­der­stands that they ex­pect the over and above lit­tle de­tails, not just im­pec­ca­ble ser­vice,”says Dawn Truem­per, area di­rec­tor of sales and mar­ket­ing for St. Regis At­lanta.“There­fore, se­lect­ing a lux­ury brand ho­tel for your travel pro­gram en­sures travel man­agers a cer­tain level of up­scale qual­ity that is in­valu­able to of­fer as an op­tion for your se­nior ex­ec­u­tives.”

The St. Regis At­lanta’s sig­na­ture but­ler ser­vice is also avail­able to business trav­el­ers stay­ing in its suites. This in­cludes com­pli­men­tary shoe shine, gar­ment press­ing and in-room bev­er­age ser­vice.

Ameni­ties are vi­tal to a guest’s ex­pe­ri­ence, both in terms of pro­vid­ing a level of com­fort as well as serv­ing as a re­flec­tion of the ho­tel’s im­age and brand iden­tity.

“ShangriLa of­fers com­pli­men­tary WiFi to all guests and we are now of­fer­ing dig­i­tal ac­cess to over 2,000 lo­cal, re­gional and in­ter­na­tional pub­li­ca­tions from 100 coun­tries in 60 lan­guages via our PressReader ser­vice,” says John­son Wong, group di­rec­tor of rooms with Shangri-La Ho­tels and Re­sorts, head­quar­tered in Hong Kong.

“Within our brands, our Golden Cir­cle loy­alty pro­gram mem­bers are in­vited to se­lect com­pli­men­tary wel­come ameni­ties,” he notes.“For Jade and Di­a­mond mem­bers, they can se­lect from min­eral wa­ter, fresh milk, choco­late, cook­ies, beer and in­stant noo­dles. Di­a­mond mem­bers also have a choice of red or white wine.”

Shangri-La will soon be launch­ing a new Ladies Pouch bath­room amenity, which will in­clude a va­ri­ety of cos­metic, skin and nail care items, to bet­ter cater to its fe­male business trav­el­ers.

“We are cur­rently see­ing a move to­wards paraben free and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly pack­ag­ing for bath­room ameni­ties,”Wong says.“Shangri-La ameni­ties are paraben free and biodegrad­able pack­ag­ing. For ameni­ties such as the tooth­brush and comb, we no longer uses plas­tic but in­stead use prod­ucts that are corn starch based and biodegrad­able.”

Hav­ing a high-qual­ity brand of bath­room and kitchen ameni­ties in the ho­tel makes a pos­i­tive im­pres­sion on the guest and en­hances the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence, ac­cord­ing to Kurt Smith, vice pres­i­dent of

prod­uct, qual­ity and in­no­va­tion for Hil­ton World­wide’s fo­cused ser­vice brands.

“When you think about in-room ameni­ties, such as bath­room items or cof­fee mak­ers, they are im­por­tant and play a key role in the stay,”Smith says.“If you do them re­ally well, guests will kind of no­tice it, but if you mess it up, they will re­ally no­tice it.”

The Hil­ton Gar­den brand has just launched Keurig brew­ers in all its rooms, as cof­fee con­tin­ues to be an amenity that is much in-de­mand by guests. Hil­ton has also seen a trend of peo­ple want­ing

a lo­cal snack in­dige­nous to the area or cre­ated to give it some ad­di­tional flare.

Some newer mar­ques are look­ing to lever­age the guest ex­pe­ri­ence even fur­ther. Chelsea Ho­tels is a col­lec­tion of bou­tique prop­er­ties in NewYork which was for­merly known as King & Grove.

each of its ho­tels, to suit the ho­tel and its clien­tele. For in­stance, Chelsea has re­cently added pool­side yoga at the McCar­ren and a Satur­day Boot Camp work­out at its Mon­tauk prop­erty.

“As a new brand and an un­known to many con­sumers, it is im­por­tant to es­tab­lish a cer­tain level of qual­ity to help build cred­i­bil­ity. Cer­tain ameni­ties are ex­pected,”says Jim Zito, Chelsea’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent. “Some to help ac­quire new guests and oth­ers to main­tain ex­ist­ing cus­tomers. That’s why you con­tinue to see some great part­ner­ships with fit­ness, re­tail and din­ing.”

Tech Tar­gets

Among the ameni­ties business trav­el­ers crave most, free WiFi is at the top of the list, and need­less to say, nearly ev­ery brand is

ex­pec­ta­tion. But beyond merely free WiFi some brands are reach­ing out to techies with ameni­ties es­pe­cially de­signed with them in mind.

Epiphany Ho­tel in Palo Alto, CA, says the brand places a great deal of im­por­tance on pro­vid­ing guests with an ar­ray of friendly, in­tu­itive ser­vices and smart ameni­ties that en­sure seam­less and com­fort­able stays.

“As a Joie de Vivre prop­erty,”Mau­rer says,“we are in­spired by the sur­round­ing

pro­vide our guests with the ameni­ties they need to un­wind and re­lax while eas­ily stay­ing con­nected.”

Geared to meet the needs of guests to the Val­ley, each room comes equipped with com­pli­men­tary high-speed In­ter­net, a G-Link dock for stream­ing movies and games from any mo­bile de­vice to a large­screen Sam­sung TV and an er­gonomic desk chair. The ho­tel also of­fers a sig­na­ture Tech­nol­ogy Concierge, where guests

have ac­cess to a wide

If ameni­ties are done well, “guests will kind of no­tice it. But if you mess it up, they will re­ally no­tice it”

va­ri­ety of on-hand ca­bles and con­nec­tors. Ad­di­tion­ally, through­out the lobby, common ar­eas and workspaces, there are uniquely po­si­tioned charg­ing sta­tions.

“I be­lieve that of­fer­ing a well-cu­rated range of prod­ucts and thought­ful ser­vices pro­vides guests a home away from home and is not only what at­tracts them to ho­tels but also keeps them com­ing back,”Mau­rer says.“I see a trend to­wards‘real cof­fee’ in gue­strooms, and at The Epiphany Illy espresso mak­ers are in ev­ery room.”

To­day’s business trav­el­ers bring their own me­dia and want to ex­pe­ri­ence it in their own time. Mor­gan says that no longer can you pro­vide just In­ter­net, but you must of­fer a pow­er­ful enough ser­vice for cus­tomers to down­load and watch movies on their iPads.

“For ev­ery sin­gle room, you need to give the In­ter­net as many as six times –lap­tops, iPads, cell phones, all con­nected, so you need to of­fer enough band width for all,” he says.“It’s one of the most im­por­tant things for business trav­el­ers.”

Some ho­tels have al­ready started ex­per­i­ment­ing with of­fer­ing iPads to guests, which al­lows the tech-savvy vis­i­tor to eas­ily con­trol the room’s en­vi­ron­ment, read a com­pli­men­tary news­pa­per and make din­ner reser­va­tions. Still, oth­ers of­fer vir­tual golf cour­ses and bowl­ing al­leys in se­lected suites, and 3D TVs and game con­soles.

With the ho­tel in­dus­try show­ing no signs of slow­ing down, business trav­el­ers are blessed with a wealth of ameni­ties – cre­ative and unique ex­tras tai­lored to bet­ter suit the trav­eler’s mis­sion on the road, and their life­style.

“The ex­pe­ri­ence plays a larger role in the decision mak­ing process,”says Chelsea Ho­tels’Jim Zito.“Com­bin­ing the room/ rate with an­cil­lary prod­ucts and ser­vices can cre­ate an ex­pe­ri­ence that meets and ex­ceeds the ex­pec­ta­tion of the guest.”

And that, he says,“gives us what we all want – a happy cus­tomer.” BT

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