Sure, there's room service and wake up calls, and little mints under your pillow, but when it comes right down to it, what makes or breaks a night in a hotel is the bed.
Brad Wilson is general manager of W New York, the first in a new line of boutique hotels run by Starwood Hotels and Resorts, owner of the Westin and Sheraton chains. One of the hottest new concepts to hit the hospitality industry in the last decade, boutique hotels are typically small, intimate establishments, heavy on style and unique amenities, like queen-sized beds piled high with billowy down comforters and pillows.
The CD alarm clocks are standard in all W New York hotel rooms, which start at about $250. You can select your own CD from a music library in the lobby, a space that radically departs from the oriental-rug and marble formality of many upscale hotel reception areas. The two-story, 4200 square foot lobby here is light and airy, with lots of blonde wood and natural fabrics. Transluscent panels of Japanese glass embedded with ginko leaves filter soft, southern light into the room which its designer David Rockwell, the man responsible for the look of Planet Hollywood, called an urban oasis.
The boutique hotel industry was born in the early eighties, not far from here in the Morgans, one of several properties owned by entrepreneur Ian Schraeger, creator of New York's legendary disco, Studio 54. While Schraeger's hotels are chic, stylish and very successful, they offer little for the modern business traveler in way of amenities like meeting space and business centers. W New York promises to bridge this gap, says Kathryn Potter, a spokesperson for the American Hotel and Motel Association.
Like low-fat, non-dairy, gourmet meals at Heartbeat, the hotel's restaurant, or perhaps surfing the Net and checking your e-mail on Web TV up in your room. Rooms can also be equipped with fax machines, scanners, copiers, whatever. I was assured by the kid who carried the bags up to my complimentary room that room sevice could fetch me a bowl of yellow M&M's, if that's what I had a hankering for.
I opted instead for a Javanese lulur, a $150 rubdown with fragrant oils and spices in the hotel's spa, courtesy of massage therapist Carrie Cummings.
Starwood Hotels' management anticipates this sort of pampering will appeal to a hip, creative clientel -- business travelers in their thirties and forties, from the fashion and advertising industries. But marketing director Diane Briskin admits it's gonna take more than the latest trend in interior design to attract that holiest of holies in the hospitality biz -- the repeat customer.
It's an idea that's catching on. In addition to Starwood, there are at least a half-dozen or so smaller hotel management companies out there with boutique properties in major markets like San Francisco, L.A., and Seattle, with even more on the way in Chicago, D.C., and Boston. So the next time you're on the road and somebody asks:
"Are you hep to the jive."
Just show 'em your room key.
In New York, I'm Tom Verde for the Savvy Traveler
For More Information:
W New York
Other Boutique Hotels:
W is just one of dozens of boutique hotels to have opened in recent years. From San Francisco's colorful and funky Hotel Triton (where doormen summon you a cab by blowing into conch shells; see Kimpton Group below) to the intimate but stately Hotel Wales on New York's upper west side (see Unique Hotels below), there are numerous boutique hotels out there for every taste.
Ian Schrager Hotels:
Ian Schrager, of Studio 54 fame, pioneered the modern boutique hotel phenomenon in the early eighties with the renovated Morgans Hotel in midtown Manhattan. For information on the Morgans and Schrager's other properties call 212-764-5500.
The Kimpton Group
One of 24 properties run by the San Francisco-based Kimptom Group. For complete list of their hotels, visit their Web site at www.kimptongroup.com.
Unique Hotels and Resorts
Unique runs a half dozen or so boutique hotels in New York, California and the Caribbean. For information and reservations, contact Unique toll free at 877-847-4444 or visit their Web site at uniquehotels.com.
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