Luxe Hotels Up the Ante with Amenities



The Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan. Photo: Ashwaq Masoodi.

Imagine lounging in a posh Manhattan hotel room while listening to vinyl records on a vintage turntable, or soaking in a warm bath while watching a movie on the bathroom’s flat screen TV. Guests who forget their laptops at home can even find an iPad in the room to use during their stay.

With the busy holiday season in full swing, Manhattan luxury hotels are offering a wide range of guest services.

Be it a legendary skyscraper or a new edgy, avant-garde hotel, the lodging industry is spending more money on luxury amenities and gadgetry. “Hotels have to keep pace with technology. Different amenities are expected at different levels. A luxury hotel customer expects different things than a budget hotel client,” said Cheryl Boyer, president Lodging Advisors LLC, a New York-based hospitality consultant firm. “The increase in the amenities is carefully scrutinized.”

A study released in September 2012 estimated that hoteliers will be spend almost $5 billion this year, which is the most since 2008, when spending topped $ 5.5 billion. The survey, by Bjorn Hanson, divisional dean of the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University, noted that capital expenditures by hotels primarily went to improved guest amenities and services.

“The hotel companies have been patient, with the owners recognizing that they were suffering,” said Hanson. “The bad phase has passed and most owners are able to fund the required improvement and upgrading.”

Hanson, a hospitality and travel industry researcher, said that hotel occupancy dipped from 59.8 percent to 54.6 percent immediately after the recession, but that numbers are now on the rise. Statista, an online statistics portal, projects the 2012 occupancy rate of U.S. hospitality industry to be 61.5 percent.

To attract more customers and to cater to their increasing expectations, several hotels, since 2008, have introduced features like room iPads, redesigned lobbies, hi-tech fitness facilities, and newer and fancier brands of toiletries, like Asprey, Malin & Goetz, Tuscan Soul, Kiehl and Cowshed.

“The guests have become more and more tech-savvy. Their expectations are higher than they were, a few years back,” said Four Seasons public relations director Tiffani Cailor.

The Four Seasons, on 57th Street, offers fitness facilities, including a spa and steam baths. For those on a business trip, the hotel offers translation and interpretation service in the room, and is considering adding in-room iPads to their list of amenities, as the 100-year-old Plaza Hotel already has. The Four Seasons has already introduced several “memorable amenities” for their family travelers.

“We click a picture of the child during check-in and then we stick it to a postcard and send it to whoever the child wants to send it to,” said Cailor.

The hotel has also introduced age-appropriate amenities like “I love NY” tees or special cookies for children.

Jeff Leeds, editor-in-chief of Hollywood-based Buzzmedia Music, often stays at the Ace Hotel when he comes to New York, where he found a guitar placed on a stand in his room on his first visit. Hotel rooms also have vintage furniture and turntables for retro lovers.

“The hotel has unusual touches,” Leeds said. “The bar is very active and pretty sophisticated. I liked the hotel stylistically.”

The average daily rates for a luxury hotel room range from $300 to  $4,000 per day, depending upon whether the accommodation is a standard room, a family room or a suite.  Legendary hotels like The Roosevelt, which opened in 1924, on  45th Street, have been renovated and redesigned to enhance their allure.

“In 2009, we opened Mad46, a rooftop bar and a billiard room. We are redesigning our rooms while keeping in mind the legendary look that we have,” said Jennifer Gillespie of The Roosevelt.

“We haven’t added anything specific but we have replaced items like bathroom amenities, soaps, shampoos, creams and are working on new vendor relationship,” said Patrick Roy, The Ritz Carlton Director of Sales and Marketing.

The Plaza, which since 2008 has had two new owners and has turned some of its space into residences, introduced a European-inspired specialty food hall in 2010.

Known for its legendary afternoon tea, The Plaza started a new tea service in the Palm Court, in November, to honor one of its most important patrons, author F. Scott Fitzgerald. The hotel, famed as the home of “Eloise,” the fictional character from the 1950s children’s books, has also opened an “Eloise Rawther sweet shop.”