Love a hotel enough to stay there every time you pass through town?
If so, chances are the feelings are mutual, and your loyalty will be rewarded in the form of special perks not advertised in the brochure. It doesn't have to be Valentine's Day for a frequent guest to ask for -- and get -- a little extra TLC.
"If you are a repeat or frequent guest, or look like you've got potential to be, the hotel will do whatever it can, within reason, to accommodate your needs," says Kevin Mitchell, president of the
Business Travel Coalition
. "We are seeing a shift from a seller's to a buyer's market which means that hotels are falling all over each other to gain customer loyalty."
Unpublished perks available to savvy business travelers include free gym passes or in-room gym equipment, complimentary limousine service, suit storage, permanent private phone and fax numbers activated upon check-in and personalized business cards listing these status-symbol phone numbers.
As many road warriors know, it's the little things that count. Tiffany Raif, a Los Angeles-based sales executive and a frequent visitor to the
in Denver, loves the personal attention. "Every time I pull up, I am always greeted by name by the valet guy, and there is always a handwritten note and a bottle of wine in my room welcoming me back."
Carrie Zimmerman, a Tallahassee, Fla., public relations executive says she'll never forget checking into a
after a long, full day, totally exhausted, starving and craving a bowl of ice cream. When the front desk clerk asked if there was anything he might be able to get for her, she let on to her craving.
Given the near-midnight hour, she was astonished to get a knock at her door 15 minutes later from a staff member carrying several pints of ice cream. "He totally picked up on what he could do for me at that moment to make me happy," says Zimmerman. "Even better, it never even showed up on my bill!"
Granted, Marriott doesn't have a companywide policy to give every tired, hungry guest ice cream on request, but it suggests the lengths hotels will go to capture and keep high-yield business travelers.
What does a guest need to do to get special treatment and extra perks? "The moral of the story is to speak up," says Anita Cotter, public relations director for the
New York Palace
, which maintains an elaborate guest-history program and responds accordingly. Repeat guests who comment favorably on a particular food or style of room are likely to find an appropriate welcome gift waiting in their room, or they may even be assigned the favored room on subsequent visits, says Potter.
"Definitely let us know your likes and preferences," she says, noting that it never hurts to befriend the hotel's concierge. "Often he has passes to special events in the city and will give them to those guests who ask."
Here's a sampling of the Valentine's Day treatment offered year-round to some hotels' most-valued and frequent guests:
- Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles: The star-studded hotel reserves the same telephone/fax number for repeat guests and provides them with personalized business cards listing their "home-away-from-home" information. The hotel also keeps exceptionally detailed guest histories so the staff can "customize" rooms, keeping in mind preferences like type of music, room temperature, preferred flower arrangements, favorite minibar items and types of pillows.
The Park Hyatt, Tokyo: The hotel will lighten special guests' travel load by storing personal belongings such as a suit and pair of shoes. Preferred guests can expect to see the items, pressed and polished, in the room's walk-in closet on the next visit.
The Hotel Monaco, Denver: Taller travelers or those who simply want a little extra leg room in bed can request one of the 18 "tall rooms" at this property. Each room -- designed for
National Basketball Association players, but available to any guest savvy enough to ask -- features an 8-foot-long king-size bed, extra-long robes, and higher-than-usual shower heads. The hotel will also provide a goldfish to keep you company during your stay -- on request, of course.
The Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Rey, Calif.: Even though the swimming pool is normally set at 80 degrees, it's bumped up to 83 degrees to accommodate one guest who has visited 150 times. That same guest always has his favorite table in The Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge reserved and waiting for him with specially ordered
Hawaiian Classic brand crackers and his favorite cheese, complete with a white linen napkin per his request (other guests use paper cocktail napkins in the lounge).
Another repeat (150-plus visits) guest receives his own set of
Frette linens (purchased by the hotel) on his bed upon arrival. They are kept in the housekeeping department for his use only.
Hotel Vintage Plaza, Seattle: To compensate for the lack of an onsite fitness facility, the hotel keeps a supply of treadmills and exercise bikes on hand to deliver to guests' rooms on request.
Unique Hotels, New York: This collection of five Manhattan properties (
The Roger Williams,
The Hotel Wales,
The Shoreham and
The Franklin) keeps a quasi-secret cache of free passes to local
New York Sports Clubs. Guests who phone the hotel in advance of their stay can request that specific drinks or food be prestocked in their room fridges. Away from home and plagued by a cold? The hotels will hand-deliver a get-well card, vitamin C, fruit and healthy snacks with tea.
The Phoenician, Phoenix: Rollerblades, a juice machine and vitamin supplements are stored at the hotel for one couple who visit the property monthly. Several guests store their spare cars here for use during their monthly visit, and one guest who always seems to have more items when she leaves than when she arrives keeps a spare suitcase at the hotel. After each visit, she sends it back to the hotel to keep for her next visit. The hotel has Kobe (an expensive kind of Japanese beef) flown in upon the request of special guests from Britain.
Dorchester Hotel, London: One frequent visitor needs to have the head of his bed propped at a 45-degree angle for medical reasons. The hotel built a special wooden platform so that when he checks in, the bed is already raised to his specifications.
The bottom line? Hotels really do love their frequent guests. Ask and you shall receive.
Stacy H. Small is the senior West Coast editor for Travel Agent magazine. She is also a freelance writer for publications including Conde Nast Traveler and National Geographic Traveler. At time of publication, Small held no positions in any securities mentioned in this column, although holdings can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. While Small cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, she welcomes feedback at