SERVICE makes the difference between good and great hotels. This is especially true in the luxury hotel sector as the industry is increasingly competitive and they all basically offer excellent guest rooms.
The best hoteliers today are no longer satisfied with providing friendly, consistent and efficient service. They endeavor to offer something more creative, personal and exclusive, adding in entertainment and cultural touches whenever possible.
This quest to bolster service has led to some short-lived experiments due to them not catching on with guests or high costs. For example, Crowne Plaza London once launched an anti-snore service to improve guest’s sleep quality. The hotel hired snore monitors to patrol corridors, identifying snorers and knocking at their doors to get them to stop. The hotel chain even planned to expand the service worldwide, but later abandoned the idea. Hotel Eight Zone guests in Taipei once had a chance to watch a play in their rooms, but sadly the promotion only lasted for one month.
Shanghai Daily explores some of the coolest and latest hotel services in the world, including everything from a robot butler to a designer serving as a private fashion consultant and an observatory allowing guests to gaze at the stars to fulfilling their dreams of being rock stars.
Aloft Cupertino in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, has kicked up a fuss in the industry with its robot butler named A.L.O. the Botlr, which took charge of both front and back of house duties last month.
A.L.O., professionally “dressed” in a shrink-wrapped, vinyl collared uniform, can perform check-in duties at the front desk and deliver room amenities, freeing up other Aloft staff members to help guests in other ways.
A.L.O can listen and talk through a touch screen, asking customers for their feedback. It’s also capable of navigating the hotel’s property, including taking the elevator.
“As soon as A.L.O entered the room, we knew it was what we were looking for. A.L.O. has the work ethic of Wall-E, the humor of Rosie from The Jetsons and reminds me of my favorite childhood robot, R2-D2,” Brian McGruinness, global brand leader at Starwood’s Specialty Select Brands, said when the Botler was launched.
Soneva Fushi in Maldives is one of the first resorts in the world with its own astronomical observatory reserved exclusively for guests.
The 12-meter-high observatory tower is in the middle of the resort’s organic garden and has an automated dome providing 360-degree views.
Guests can use the telescope to see mountains and craters on the moon, galaxies filled with 200 billion stars, and figure out background stars in the constellation. The remaining months of this year provide a good chance to see Saturn’s translucent rings, a lunar eclipse and full moon.
The resort also regularly invites astronomy experts to give seminars that are open to all guests. This year from October 8-17, Tycho Brahe Prize winner Massimo Tarenghi will conduct lessons on how to photograph the night sky. Buzz Aldrin, one of the first to walk on the moon, will visit the resort in December.
Soneva Fushi is an island resort with 55 villas and is known for its “no news, no shoes, no pretensions” philosophy.
From farm to table
Guests of Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai can learn how to plant rice and cook Thai cuisine.
Those interested wear traditional Thai clothing and boots and head to the rice paddy, learning to plant rice shoots as fast as possible while two water buffaloes work the fields. The hotel’s gardening team will explain how rice grows, how many harvests a year and how to thresh rice by hand.
After guests can attend a cooking class led by chef Pirun Pumicome. He provides a tour of a market to source ingredients while guests can sample some local snacks. Then they return to the hotel’s kitchen to learn Thai cooking.
The resort is in a corner of Mae Rim Valley, nestled among mountains and terraced rice paddles, 20 minutes from downtown Chiang Mai.
Record an album
Sunset Marquis Hotel in West Hollywood distinguishes itself with its option to feel like a rock star and cut an album. Guests have exclusive access to Nightbird Studios, which is steps from the hotel’s bar and pool, where plenty of Grammy-winning songs have been recorded.
Jed Leiber owns the studio and is the son of Jerry Leiber, who co-wrote the song “Hound Dog,” which was famously covered by Elvis Presley in 1956. In the early 1990s, Jed Leiber together with famous guitarist Jeff Beck wrote and performed songs in one of the hotel’s rooms. After receiving noise complaints from other guests, the general manager of Sunset Marquis let them use a laundry room in the basement. The laundry room later became one of the most popular destinations for stars and actors in Hollywood.
The hotel later teamed with Jed Leiber to offer all guests a chance to record an album.
Chinese fashion lessons
Guests at The Peninsula Shanghai have the chance to learn about Chinese fashion from top fashion designer Lu Kun.
Known as the “Chinese Galliano,” the Shanghai-born fashion designer is known for his inventive Chinese-inspired designs that made waves around the global fashion industry.
The one-day program starts with an authentic Shanghai breakfast in the hotel’s Chinese restaurant to give guests a quick impression of the city. The customer is then shuttled to Lu’s fashion studio for a private tour by Lu. He will showcase his clothing creations, including the story of some celebrities who have worn them. He will also reveal his sources of inspiration. He will answer the guest’s questions on fashion trends and how to dress stylishly.
No more allergy symptoms
Travelers with allergies no longer have to suffer from a runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes and itchy skin. Hyatt on the Bund opened hypo-allergenic rooms on its 22nd floor, becoming one of the first in China with such a service.
Rooms are purified with a seven-step procedure to reduce airborne particles and minimize potential irritants. When entering these rooms, guests breath soothing air created by tea tree oil aromatherapy.
An air purifier working 24 hours a day is installed in these rooms. The carpet, sofa and furniture, mattress and bed linens are covered with a special spray shield to minimize allergens and prevent mites.
Furthermore, guests are greeted with a cup of lemongrass tea to soothe the respiratory system.
The hotel has amazing views of the Huangpu River, the Bund and Lujiazui.
Spa dreams come true
At Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa, guests can enjoy an overnight spa treatment. As dusk approaches, the spa service begins with a candlelit bath. It’s followed by herbal steam, skin polish and a traditional Fijian massage. A light meal is served later to end the evening. Guests are awakened by the first rays of dawn and the sound of waves washing gently ashore. After a light breakfast, a facial is done to signal the end of the treatment.