Complimentary neck massages are given upon arrival.// © 2011 Marquis Los Cabos
When it comes to bookings, it's no secret that the recession probably hit high-end properties the hardest. It's not that more affluent customers could no longer afford to stay at luxury resorts; they could. But in a down economy, many individuals and companies that ordinarily host lavish incentive gatherings or spend freely to sponsor business meetings, felt it simply didn't seem right to indulge themselves.
In that situation, it would be logical for the management of an up-market resort to simply hunker down, keep all unnecessary spending in check and wait for the economy to turn-around. Many managers did, but Ella Messerli -- the general manager of the Marquis Los Cabos, a luxury all-suite resort in the Cabo Real district at the southern end of Mexico's Baja Peninsula -- was not one of them.
Instead, Messerli conceived and then launched what she called the Customized Luxury concept, a value-added program that started late last year. Messerli began the program when she saw that the economy was starting to improve. From experience, she felt that high-end travel would be the first to benefit, and she wanted to do something to set the Marquis Los Cabos apart from its competition. So, she decided to ramp up the already high level of service afforded to guests in the resort's 28 one-bedroom casitas, each 1,600 square feet in size with a private plunge pool, as well as in its five Marquis suites.
"We want to be ahead of the curve in accommodating the luxury market as it begins to return," said Messerli. "I wanted to tweak an already premium level of service."
The centerpiece of that move was the addition of butler service for guests of the casitas and the five Marquis suites. But Messerli wanted her mayordomos (butlers) to be different. It was her goal that they would be virtually invisible, going beyond expectations and providing services that guests may not have specifically requested, but would appreciate -- to be, in her words, a "personal assistant."
The butler might arrange for a babysitter, make dining reservations off property, arrange for transportation to take guests into town, take care of getting airline boarding passes, clean suitcases scuffed up in transit and load iPods with content from the property's extensive library, among other duties. They will unpack for guests, if so requested, and press wrinkled garments. But, above all, Messerli wants her butlers to render service without the "attitude" that she feels is often displayed by butlers at other properties.
"I don't want them to make a lot of noise about their service, no hoopla. This isn't Hollywood," she said.
Butlers at the Marquis Los Cabos are on duty from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. During the resort's low season, five are on duty and, for peak months, there will be seven. All report to the guest services and operations managers.
While additional staffing is the more prominent feature of the Customized Luxury concept, it's not the only one.
Upon arrival at the property, casita and Marquis suite guests are escorted to a newly created VIP reception area on the lobby level. There, registration is taken care of quickly and the assigned butler is introduced. He then escorts the guests to their unit. The VIP lounge also remains open and available to casita and Marquis suite guests throughout their stay, providing cold soft drinks, coffee, tea and pastries.
Casita and Marquis suite guests are invited to have a complimentary, five-minute neck massage at their leisure in either the VIP reception area or in their suite. Upon arrival to their suites, clients receive a dish of guacamole and complimentary beer (regular or non-alcoholic). One evening of complimentary babysitting is also part of the Customized Luxury program. VIP guests also receive a different plate of specialized sweets created for them by the chef each evening.
Also introduced by Messerli for the pleasure of all guests at the property's three pool areas is a series of refreshment treats. In addition to bringing bottles of cold water and a cold towel, waiters come by each hour with slices of fresh fruit on a skewer or a small fruit-flavored iced treat known in Spanish as a paleta. Also, a waiter tours the pool areas with a cart loaded with paperback books for the guests' reading pleasure.
All of these services are offered by the waitstaff without the expectation of tips.
Of such pampering, Messerli said, "It's not over- the-top service. There is nothing 'in your face.' But guests love it."