Hotels of all stripes increasingly are going above and beyond standard and humdrum in favor of fresh offerings, engaging programming and new tastes, and the luxury market is no exception. Here are the hottest trends to watch in the big-ticket segment in the year ahead:
1. A new spin on the bar
What's out: Drinks and a cheese plate at the bar
What's in: Drinks and a cheese plate served tableside
Hotel restaurants are bringing the party to guests via impressive bar carts drawn right to the table. Brunch guests at the 45-room 45 Park Lane in London are treated to a Bloody Mary trolley stocked with premium local market ingredients, while the 18-room Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va., offers a cow-shaped cheese cart arrayed with selections from around the world.
2. A sleep to remember
What's out: Staying up all night
What's in: Sleeping all night
Who wants to party all night with sleep-time perks like these? For example, the 125-room Hotel Vermont in Burlington has a special bedtime menu with a long list of sleep-friendly amenities including a Lunaroma aromatherapy selection, Vermont flannel PJ sets, Vermont teddy bears, bedtime stories and a hot toddy selection. The 513-room Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C., is turning up the heat on turndown amenities with temple balm and reflexology foot treatments as turndown amenities, along with a "Good Night Wishes" card with tips for relaxing.
3. Text your request
What's Out: Dialing "0" to reach the concierge desk
What's In: Using your smartphone or tablet to reach the concierge, book reservations, more
Hotels are inviting guests to make requests without saying a word. Three Loews Hotels properties are testing a pilot program that takes guest requests through text messages — from additional pillows to wake-up calls — with replies guaranteed within four minutes. In Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., the 510-room Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa's Red Coat Direct program lets meeting planners text hotel staff with questions, comments or requests during their meeting.
4. Ride in style
What's Out: Designer suites
What's In: Designer bikes
Properties are teaming up with designers to create custom bicycles that express the style and individuality of the hotel. With 160 rooms, Le Meurice in Paris offers chic pistachio-green bikes with all the trimmings, including a green basket and elegant gold bike locks, while Maine's 21-room Chebeague Island Inn, some 10 miles off the coast of Portland, allows guests to explore the island with custom L.L. Bean-designed bikes.
5. Local libraries at hotels
What's Out: Buying a bestseller at the airport
What's In: Discovering a bestseller at your hotel
More hotels are offering literary amenities, such as at the 331-room The Nines in Portland, Ore., which has partnered with nearby Powell's Books to offer a wide selection of more than 3,000 volumes in the hotel's on-site library.
6. Cajun goes global
What's Out: New Orleans cuisine in New Orleans
What's In: New Orleans cuisine in unexpected places
Like Vietnamese, Scandinavian and Korean cuisine before it, New Orleans-inspired fare is taking over menus in far-flung places in 2014, like at the 343-room Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa, where executive chef Michael Farrell brings NoLa-inspired Southern Coastal style to the Caribbean with dishes like shrimp and grits, and seafood gumbo.
7. Welcome home
What's Out: Hotel as escape
What's In: Hotel as home
With short-term home and apartment rental sites like Homeaway and Airbnb shifting hospitality toward homelike experiences, luxury hotels are responding by offering more personalized options. Accommodations at the 39-room Lodge at Doonbeg in County Clare, Ireland, are tailored with modern conveniences such as full kitchens and spacious living rooms complete with intimate comforts of home like gas fireplaces and large book selections, plus bespoke furnishings, fabrics and hand-selected antiques.
Source: Hawkins International PR, hawkpr.com