Favored hotels are increasingly adapting to guest lifestyles. The Four Seasons Hotel Chicago last year introduced three hypoallergenic guest rooms to the relief of allergy and asthma sufferers. New York’s Waldorf=Astoria now offers a canine room-service menu — think German shepherd’s pie — and complimentary dog-walking for guests with pets in tow. THE peninsula Chicago added sporty BMW Mini Coopers to its fleet, offering the chauffeur-driven vehicle for three-hour town tours for guests staying in suites.
Privacy has also surfaced as a luxury indicator. This summer, THe beverly Hills Hotel debuts two 5,500-square-foot Mediterranean-style bungalows — each complete with three bedrooms, lap pool, kitchen, and outdoor shower. The new private cabanas at the refurbished beach club of the Mandarin Oriental, Miami come with a personal butler, flat-screen TV, and iPad. In Arizona, The Boulders just updated its 160 private casitas, keeping the authentic wood-burning fireplaces while upgrading the electronics.
Few hotels worked harder at earning guest affection than historic properties. Some turned on the charm: Omni La Mansión del Rio in San Antonio now offers history tours of the Spanish colonial building. Others did it via reinvention: New York’s Plaza continued to defy age with groundbreaking additions including a 5,400-square-foot food hall from celebrity chef Todd English, featuring stations devoted to wine, sushi, noodles, and more for takeout or dining in. It installed iPads in each of the 282 suites, and a wellness center by La Palestra, bridging fitness and medicine, will open this fall.
“Luxury doesn’t have to cost you lots of money,” says Mr. & Mrs. Smith’s Lohan. “It’s the little touches, the thoughtful touches. It’s an awful marketing phrase, ‘Surprise and delighting the customer,’ but you need that.”
Surprising and delighting is just the job of the new “fire and wine butler” at the ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay in Northern California, who roves the property in a golf cart stocked with firewood and marshmallows. At The Carlyle in New York, managing director Erich Steinbock, a marathoner, runs with guests in Central Park twice each week. Chef Michael Reardon of Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica takes guests who book the “shop with chef” package shopping with him to the farmers market each Wednesday, gathering ingredients for that night’s menu.
Beyond physical location, restaurants chiefly drive guest bookings. “‘How’s the food?’ is one of the most-asked questions I get,” says American Express travel representative Linda D’Arcy.
In Hawaii, top-ranking the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua epitomizes the effort, maintaining kitchen gardens, hiring chef de cuisine Jojo Vasquez away from Iron Chef star Masaharu Morimoto, and even serving poolside in biodegradable containers. On Oahu, Halekulani introduced a nongenetically modified organism menu in March, the first in the nation of its kind and available in its Orchid restaurant as well as via room service. Non-GMO foods “that are locally sourced, simple, pure, and unprocessed speak to the way so many of our discriminating guests live and eat,” says Halekulani executive chef Vikram Garg.