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
-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."
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
Bortnick says this saves annoying trips to drug stores and shopping centers, freeing visitors to just focus on the business or play that they came to do.
"We're working with different cosmetic companies to expand the program based on feedback we've gotten from guests. And we want to start offering different PDA and electronics chargers," she says.
At the upscale W Hotels, guests are treated to the convenience of having a personal assistant thanks to its "Whatever/Whenever" program.
W will reschedule your appointments and your dinner reservations, or even give you the chance to travel luggage-free.
The hotel will pick up bags from your home and deliver them to your hotel room, where the staff unpacks and presses garments before you check in. Upon departure, W will get your bags to your next location, too.
The most exclusive hotels and resorts have also been pet-friendly for as long as the upper crust has traveled with
W has a special pet program that includes birthday cakes, grooming and vet services; the Lake Placid Lodge resort provides a down bed, gourmet treats and a nightly turndown for your pooch. Manhattan's SoHo Grand hotel offers 24-hour dog-walking service and a special "doggie menu" of treats.
These getaways are now anticipating Rover's needs, too, and a pet's favorite food and toys can be waiting for them upon arrival.
Does your dog only eat organic free-range chicken? Tell your reservation specialist while you're booking at the Mandarin Oriental in Manhattan and it will be in the room before your dog checks in.
These hotels can also fetch anything that man's best friend desires during your stay.
Nothing to Complain About
Mark Hodgdon, director of property management at Villas Del Mar in Los Cabos, Mexico, says there's an expectation that the travel industry will be proactive about giving guests a perfect experience.
"The guest expects you to exceed expectations. To be competitive in an ever-growing competitive marketplace, you've got to step up and provide pleasing surprises and pleasant expectations," says Hodgdon. His resort and luxury residential community caters to clients with a net worth between $5 million and $10 million, which he says is the top 1% of the traveling public.
Hodgdon's travel coordinators work with guests to determine exactly what they want in a vacation. They then deliver that experience in such a way that the traveler never has to ask for anything.
"Our guests typically either want to relax and do nothing, or they want to do everything that Los Cabos has to offer," he says. "We are prepared to direct and customize experiences, no matter where on that spectrum people are. We know their destinations and their wants so well that they can have something not experienced by everyone because it is exactly the experience that suits them."
And at Villas Del Mar, about 70% of guests at any one time are repeat customers. "A lot of people book as they're walking out the door ... that's when you know you've been successful," Hodgdon says.
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