Butler service is a growing trend at luxury hotels. // © 2014 Thinkstock
The Union Public Hotel, the first U.S. building believed to have been called a hotel, opened in Washington D.C. in 1793 and, ever since, the hotel business has been an industry of growth and redefinition.
In the ensuing years, hotels began to offer an ever-growing list of modern amenities, including private bathrooms, in-room air-conditioning, in-room television and 24-hour room service. But while free HBO might once have been a consumer draw, today’s travelers are demanding exponentially more from their accommodations.
Travelers no longer see hotels as just a place to sleep. Rather, they want them to be part of their overall destination experience or at the very least to provide a place to “come home to” after their day’s activities.
In particular, the hotel lobby has witnessed a revolution of sorts. The popularity of lifestyle hotels such as Aloft, Andaz and Edition can be partially attributed to lobbies that feature open-plan lounges and restaurants — with a resulting increase in hand-crafted cocktails and tasty snacks — as well as a variety of comfortable, nook-style seating and, of course, plenty of access to technology. Most major brands are rethinking their own hotel lobbies. Starwood Hotels, for example, announced that Sheraton would redesign more than 300 lobbies worldwide as part of an overall $4 billion revitalization plan.
In addition to the lobby experience, hotel patrons are increasingly expectant of personalized attention during their stay.
A growing trend among luxury properties is the emergence of butler service. Beyond unpacking and making restaurant reservations, today’s butlers provide a variety of unique services. The tanning butler at Miami’s The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, patrols the beach offering guests tanning lotions and application services, while the fireplace butler at the Taj Boston helps executive suite guests set the mood with the right wood for their in-room fire.
Hotels are also placing an increased emphasis on itinerary planning, specialized concierge programs and curated guest experiences.
Peninsula Hotels offers a series of high-end activities designed to bring each destination to life through its Peninsula Academy, with programs such as a backstage tour of Broadway theaters, elephant rides in Thailand and helicopter rides over the Great Wall of China.
As travelers continue to demand increasingly more personalized attention from their accommodations, hotels will continue to roll out a staggering lineup of guest experiences. This growth in hotel offerings can provide a lucrative source of income for informed travel agents who have more opportunities than ever to match their clients with the exact experience they are seeking.