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A Butler in Every Room

It's nice to ring the bell and have the butler come, but it's nicer to have the butler bring you what you want before you even know you want it.

This is the brave new world of all-inclusive luxury, where hotels and resorts try to anticipate your needs, whims and desires, rather than just provide the dry cleaning and spa treatments that have become de rigueur in the upper echelons of guest service.

"The emphasis on care and guest comfort is really key right now," says Vanessa Bortnick, director of restaurant public relations for Kimpton Hotels, a collection of boutique hotels that are paired with destination restaurants.

"Guests definitely see these high levels of service in other parts of the hospitality industry, and it's no longer enough to reach to their needs. We have to anticipate," she explains.

Upmarket hotels and resorts like Kimpton and the Starwood (HOT)-owned St. Regis do this by tracking guest preferences so that repeat customers have their favorite and most requested services ready for them upon arrival.

And in a version of star treatment for the average Joe, hotels are gathering as much information about a guest's particular quirks before check-in so that services can be rendered before they're requested.

It works much like the backstage rider afforded to celebrities: If Beyonce expects rose-scented candles in her dressing room or Sting wants low-key lighting and a Spanish Rioja, they get it.

Why shouldn't a high-flying business traveler have a case of Vitamin Water and a manicurist waiting in his or her room?

"Nobody want a cookie-cutter hotel room anymore," says Meg Byrne, director of public relations for St. Regis Hotels.

"People come back, and people stay for long lengths of time, so they want their rooms set up the way they like it with the things we know that they need already there."

Bortnick adds that guest requests for personalized in-room amenities is part of a larger trend that has benefited high-end retailers and destinations for years: people will pay for lifestyle.

"We hear people comment all the time that they love Kimpton because of the masseurs, the fact that they can bring pets or get a yoga lesson in their room. They can live the life they are accustomed to or indulge in a lifestyle they want, all while on the road."

Assisted Living

As one of the first (and few remaining) hotels in New York City to offer full butler service, the St. Regis has been a driving force in the high-end hospitality space.

Byrne says that her company has stayed at the forefront of luxury services by creating opportunities for guests and the hotel to interact, and learning from these interactions.

Kimpton has also learned from its guests, extracting information from them during complimentary wine hours.

Over a nice red, managers find out what people really want beyond complimentary shoe shines and 1,000-thread-count sheets.

All this wishing over wine led to Kimpton's "Forget It, We've Got It" program, which gives guests the equivalent of a personal assistant to take care of all the little details.

Each room has a menu of items that includes easy-to-forget essentials like nail files and sunscreen that the hotel can provide around the clock, some free of charge.

To view Katie Benner's interview with David Taylor, director of sales and marketing at St. Regis, please click here .

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