If you’re like many hotel guests, you probably just waltz right past the concierge desk without a second thought. After all, unless you need a hard-to-get restaurant reservation or last minute theater tickets, you can probably figure out whatever you want to know with a quick search of Google. But what if we told you your concierge might be able to help you quell that nasty hangover, or that they could put the spark back into your love life?
A growing number of high end hotels are bringing in specialty concierges whose job is to provide more personalized services to hotel guests. For example, Westin Hotels & Resorts has recently employed a running concierge who can share advice and help guests achieve their fitness goals. Meanwhile the Viceroy Riviera Maya has its own soap concierge for the traveler who just can’t bathe without some hand-shaved artisanal soap.
One specialty concierge we can imagine being in high demand is the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans’ “Recovery Concierge.” Guests who partied a little too hard can head to the concierge for hangover help, and might find themselves being prescribed a hair of the dog treatment, an in-room massage, or some fresh fruit to give them a healthy energy boost. And then there’s the “Romance Concierge” at the Rendezvous in St Lucia. Her job is to help romantically challenged individuals woo their partner by organizing private dates on the beach, musical serenades, and private sunset cruises, among other things.
What kind of fantasy concierge service would you like to see in a hotel?
Music is becoming common on hotel websites, but does it really make us want to book a room?
A scientific study has come up with the answer: yeah, kinda. The journal Psychology of Music has published an article titled, “Congruency between instrumental background music and behavior on a website.”
As the author states in the abstract:
“Instrumental music (jazz and djembe) was played or not [played] while participants browsed the website of a well-known seaside resort and participants were instructed to select a type of accommodation. It was found that djembe music was associated more with a choice of outdoor accommodation while jazz music was associated with greater interest for hotel accommodation. Both music conditions showed a significant difference from the no music control condition. The ability of instrumental music to prime different memories and feelings is used to explain these results.”
So basically when we hear jazz we think of sipping bourbon in smoky interiors, while djembe makes us want to dance the night away in the moonlight. Um, OK.
Reading the article further, it turns out there’s a whole field of study devoted to figuring out what background music will do to our buying habits. Classical music makes us buy more expensive wines, for example, and playing French music will make us more likely to buy French wines. And here I thought the major determining factor was the physical attributes of my date.
The results of this study are pretty impressive. Eighty percent of the participants in this experiment picked a hotel room when they heard jazz, while 62.5% of the djembe listeners picked camping. For those who didn’t hear any music, 27.5% picked the hotel and 30% picked camping. It appears that mood music is aptly named.
Of course, hotel websites looking to get our money have to pick the right music. More often than not it’s some cheesy tune that makes us turn off the volume, or even worse for the hotel, click on another website. The annoyance factor is even higher if the music is clogging your slow connection or starts ringing out across your office, announcing to everyone that you’re slacking off.
So instead of spending money on music for their websites, perhaps hotels should spend more on music in their rooms. While Blind Willie McTell isn’t around anymore to play his 12-string guitar while you scarf down all the pillow mints, there are plenty of out-of-work musicians who would be happy to serenade you for a small fee.
I still remember the feeling of slipping into 600 thread count sheets after months of staying in backpacker hostels where the bedding was often akin to vintage potato sacks and the mattress boasted a giant dimple where thousands of other young unwashed explorers had slept before me. Settling onto an ergonomic, body-cradling bed, resting against down pillows, waking up to a buffet breakfast with more types of pastry than one could reasonably taste-test before 10 a.m. – it was glorious. There’s just something about a nice hotel that you can’t put a price on. Yet, of course, they do come with a price, and it’s typically a hefty one.
No matter your travel style, it goes without saying that you want to stretch your dollar as far as possible. That often means compromising on accommodation – staying in a bare bones room with questionable stains in the carpet – so you can spend your money on what really matters, which is of course, exploring your destination. Still, few of us would turn down the chance to stay at a nice hotel, especially if we could do it without forking over a whole lot of extra cash. And the thing is, you can stay in nice hotels without paying top dollar – you just have to know how to go about it.The first step, of course, is to search around for a good deal on your accommodation of choice and you’ll find no shortage of booking websites offering discounts (Expedia, Kayak, Hotwire and lastminute.com, to name just a few). But why limit yourself to what’s advertised to the masses? Here are a few other ways of scoring nice digs on a budget.
Haggle. It certainly depends on where in the world you’re traveling, but in many countries, haggling is an expected part of any transaction. So go ahead and ask the receptionist for their “best price” – you’ll be surprised at the number of times you receive a discount. This tactic works best if you haven’t already made a booking and the hotel risks losing your business. Of course, use some common sense and make sure you’re not being unreasonable in your demands, especially if you’re traveling in a developing country (where the locals need those extra few dollars more than you) and the price is already pretty good.
Ask for an upgrade. There are lots of places where negotiating would be frowned upon. I mean, you don’t exactly walk into The Four Seasons and start haggling over your room rate. But what you can do at these kinds of establishments, is ask for some kind of bonus, whether it be an upgrade to a better room type, being placed on a higher floor in the building, getting a room with a nice view versus one that faces the parking lot, or a free breakfast voucher. A surprising number of hotels will oblige your request if they have room available. Just be polite when inquiring and remember to tip when they come through with the upgrade.
Seek out new, independent hotels. A new establishment – especially one that isn’t associated with a major hotel chain – needs to work at attracting guests and building a name for itself, which means they’ll likely offer lower rates to get people in the door. As an added bonus, everything in the rooms will be sparkly and new, and the service will probably be better than usual because the owners are eager to impress.
Stay in business hotels. Hotels geared towards business travelers typically fill up during the working week, but come the weekend, they empty out. As a result, many of these hotels lower their rates over the weekend, making them ideal for leisure travelers looking to save a few dollars. The further away from the tourist centers the hotel is located, the cheaper it’s likely to be (many are found near conference centers or the local business district).
Look for a hotel away from the tourist haunts. Every city has its established hotspots that tourists generally flock to but if you can hunt down the emerging districts you’ll be able to nab accommodation at a much lower rate. Don’t be afraid to venture a significant distance from the downtown attractions – as long as there’s a good public transit system or affordable taxis, you won’t have a problem. In fact, chances are you’ll have a more authentic experience overall when sleeping, eating and shopping in the same district as the locals.
Have you ever had success negotiating down the rate on a nice hotel? What other tactics have worked for you?
Welcome to this week’s edition of “Hotel News We Noted,” where we round up the week’s best, most interesting and just downright odd news of note in the hospitality world. Have a tip? Send us a note or leave a comment below.
The hotel world has been buzzing this winter with new and planned openings, extreme amenities and packages galore. Here’s our take on what you need to know this week:
Shangri-La Goes After Saudi Princess Who Skipped Out on $7.5 Million Hotel Bill
The Shangri-La hotel in Paris is going after the Saudi princess who left in the dead of the night and skipped out on her $7.5 million hotel bill, Business Insider reports. The princess spent six months on the 41st floor of the hotel, and her father, the King, has refused to pay her debts. The king has since confined the princess to a palace in Saudi Arabia after she left a trail of unpaid debts across Europe. Nothing quite says “princess” like palace confinement, hmm?
Hotel Openings: ME London
The first ME by Melia hotel in the UK and the fifth in the brand opened last week in one of the world’s hottest cities for hotel growth – London. ME London is located in the heart of the West End, on the site formerly inhabited by the famous Gaiety Theatre. The 157-room property will feature a rooftop bar, Radio, offering panoramic views of the city, as well as the brand trademark penthouse, SuiteME – a two-level superlative experience offering a fire-pit warmed private terrace, a private lounge, separate dining room, three 3-D televisions, a pillow menu and much more. (Remember the crazy Cancun penthouse from the Real World Cancun?) NYC-based The ONE Group is the hotel’s official F&B provider, with two of its iconic brands opening venues within the property – STK London and Cucina Asellina.
Luxury Hotels Coming Your Way: Four Seasons Madrid, An Aman In Venice and Multi-Billion Dollar Las Vegas
While much of our hotel news is often focused on newly opened or revamped properties, this week seemed to have much to offer in the way of “soon-to-come” luxury hotels. Four Seasons announced their first property in Spain, Four Seasons Madrid, in the next four years, Aman is coming to the Grand Canal with a new ultra-luxury property opening on this summer boasting 24 suite-style rooms, and a Malaysian investment firm has paid $350 million for a multi-billion dollar hotel complex to come in the former Echelon site in Las Vegas, USA Today reported.Tech Tips: Eventi Offers Hi-Tech Amenities For Travelers
Sick of traveling with tons of gadgets? Eventi, a New York City Kimpton property, now has a “Business Bar” where travelers can rent gadgets ranging from iPads and MacBook Pros to Kindles, Nooks and even digital cameras. This free service is geared to help travelers who like to pack light, but who would love to sample some of these gadgets as a trial before buying, particularly the cameras!
Sleep Better: Accor’s Ibis Offers a Sleep App
We’ve certainly written about hotels with great sleep programs before, but this is the first time we’ve seen a hotel brand unveil their own sleep app. ibis Styles and ibis budget are transforming your restful night into a digital work of art. Every morning, it allows iPhone users to see how their night’s sleep has been transformed into an original digital work of art. Once the Sleep Art app has been programed, the iPhone becomes a sensor that captures movements and sounds. This data is converted real-time into a virtual “work of art” as the user sleeps. Every night is different. These virtual works of art are stored in the gallery and users can therefore compare each night’s sleep and share results by email or on Facebook, so that as many people as possible can also find out about this unique digital experience.
The President Dines at The Jefferson in Washington, DC
Much buzz has been heard in the news this week about President Obama’s dining with 12 republican leaders. But we’ve got the inside scoop on where he dined – most outlets only called it a “discreet” Washington hotel. The property was, in fact, The Jefferson, a Preferred Boutique property in downtown Washington. The congressmen and President dined on everything from Blue Crab Risotto to Lobster “Thermidor” to Peanut Butter Crumble. We hear that the president picked up the tab!
I’m a budget traveler who has spent more time in dives with droopy mattresses than luxury hotels with spa treatments that cost more than Suriname’s annual GDP. So on the rare occasions when I get to stay someplace truly swanky – usually when the Priceline roulette wheel shines favorably on me or if I’m accompanying my wife on a business trip – I sometimes feel a bit like Jed Clampett arriving with Hillbilly family in tow in Beverly Hills.
Did I shave that day? Is my car the cheapest one on the premises? How much do I need to give the bellboy who is charging over to open my car door? I had this same fish-out-of-water feeling when we pulled up to the Andaz, a luxury hotel in West Hollywood that is part of the Hyatt chain last week. But the place turned out to be very different than any other fancy hotel I’ve ever stayed in.
For starters, the young man who opened our car door and took care of our suitcases was our one-stop check-in person. After loading our suitcases on a trolley, he escorted us into the sleek, dimly lit lobby, checked us in himself and then brought us up to the room as though we were at a small B & B.
“Now everything in the minibar except the alcohol is free,” he said to my surprise and puzzlement. “So all the soft drinks, bottles of water and snacks are free.”
I asked him to repeat that because I’ve never heard of a free minibar before and I didn’t want to get a bill for a $9 bag of chips, but I’d heard him right. The Andaz also has free wireless Internet and serves good, free California wines from 5-7 p.m. each night. Before I gush about this place a bit more, I should point out that unlike many “reviews” of luxury hotels, this is not a paid endorsement or quid-pro-quo deal. At Gadling, we do not write about free press trips or accept other free travel perks, so you can trust the integrity of our reviews.
Our double room was stylishly decorated and had a curtained off little section in the back with a love seat, comfy chair and Ottoman. My kids immediately claimed this area as their clubhouse, but it was also useful for my wife and I after the kids went to bed.
The hotel was renovated and turned into an Andaz property, one of just nine around the world, in 2009. Gene Autry once owned the hotel and in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, it was known as the Riot House because rock stars used to routinely trash their rooms. John Bonham reportedly once rode his motorcycle down the hotel corridors, Keith Richards once dropped a television set from his room out onto Sunset Boulevard, and Jim Morrison lived there until he was evicted for hanging out a window by his fingertips.
Those days are long gone, but recording artists still patronize the place. A big contingent of Brits including the singer Laura Mvula was there during our stay. And they still play great music in the lobby – I don’t think I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to The Smiths at any other hotel I’ve ever stayed at besides this one.
The Andaz has everything you might expect in a luxury hotel: incredibly comfortable beds, high-quality toiletries and linens, plus a very nice rooftop pool that offers lovely views of the area. We found the Sunset Boulevard location to be convenient but thanks to the notorious L.A. traffic, it can take a lot longer to get around than you might think.
And now for a few niggling complaints. No hotel is perfect and that includes the Andaz. I found the free wireless to be extremely slow at times and when I called down to inquire I was transferred to an off-site tech support person who suggested I pay a premium to get better speed. No thanks. The valet parking is $32 per night (there is no self-park option), which isn’t exactly a bargain and the sumptuous buffet breakfast is strictly expense account territory at $26 a head.
But you don’t come to a luxurious hotel like this one to pinch pennies, you’re there for a treat and the Andaz certainly is one. Aside from the free snacks, soft drinks and wine, my other favorite perk was the selection of free newspapers. I’m an old-school hard copy newspaper reader and the fact that the Andaz was willing to deliver copies of the New York Times, the L.A. Times and the Wall Street Journal right to my doorstop made me very happy indeed. On my last night at the Andaz, our neighbors stumbled back to their room at 2 a.m. and commenced a noisy party worthy of the hotel’s glory Riot House days. At the time, I was annoyed but in retrospect, it was a fitting end to a memorable stay.