Meetings & Conventions Chicer by the Dozen March
CHICer by the Dozen
New boutique hotels chains are targeting
the hip business guest
By Cheryl-Anne Sturken
Move over, Ian Schrager. There’s a new breed of boutique hotels
springing up, and you don’t have to be a supermodel, a superstar or
even super rich to make it past their check-in desks. What defines
these upstarts? Take the fundamentals of boutique hotel theory
outré design, weird furnishings, staff with perfect teeth add a few
homey indulgences, and then duplicate them en masse. Voila! The
boutique hotel chain, as represented by Monaco Hotels and W Hotels,
There’s one other way these newcomers differ from those that
came before them: They shamelessly woo meeting planners with hip,
high-tech meeting and function space.
Unlike Schrager’s properties (New York City’s Royalton and
Miami’s Delano, to name two), which sell stark simplicity and call
it cutting-edge design, Monaco and W are after the savvy business
traveler who wants style, luxury and the conveniences central
reservations, consistent service and amenities between properties
that chains have to offer.
They’re also stocking up on the technological amenities business
travelers demand, as well as the soothing comforts brand-name spas,
high-powered fitness centers, trendy eateries and chic bars by hot,
hip designers that help make life on the road bearable.
In December 1998, White Plains, N.Y.-based Starwood Hotels &
Resorts Worldwide, Inc., launched its W brand with the opening of
the W New York on Lexington Avenue in midtown Manhattan. Meanwhile,
the San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group,
headed up by longtime boutique hotel developer Bill Kimpton (widely
known for propelling the boutique trend with creations like San
Francisco’s Triton), has expanded its Monaco brand to four
properties, adding Seattle, Chicago and Denver. The Monaco San
Francisco, which opened in 1995, is the brand’s flagship property.
And more properties are to come.
Hospitality analysts like Bobbie Bowers, president of
Hendersonville, Tenn.-based Smith Travel Research, believe these
companies are on to something. “Just by the nature of the product
they are offering a hip, upscale, eclectic mix I think there is
definitely a growing market for [boutique hotels],” says Bowers.
“Instead of the homogenized hotel, they offer a product with a very
“We think the future of the hotel business is not just about clever
design and style, or even great service, which should be a given
anyway. The next level is an environment experience,” says San
Francisco-based Steve Pinetti, vice president of sales and
marketing for the Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, which is
currently developing the Monaco brand image. “And we’re providing
it to the corporate meeting planner great-looking environments
coupled with great food, service and comforting amenities.”
In July the Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City will open, and,
according to Pinetti, other major metro markets being eyed include
New York City; Boston; Washington, D.C.; and Vancouver, British
“People are moving so fast and have so much to deal with that
they don’t have time to stop and think about themselves,” says
Pinetti. “Monacos are designed to give the guest that chance.”
Guest rooms: Minimalists need not apply. Each
Monaco room is a veritable Versailles of bright colors, rich
fabrics and soft surfaces. While every property in the chain is
unique in design, typical signature touches include buttercup
yellow (and lots of it), boldly striped wallpaper, antique lamps,
rich brocades, velvet fabrics and museum-quality artwork.
Standard in-room business amenities include IPORT, providing
high-speed Internet access; dual-line phone systems, fax and copy
machines, and compact disc players.
Meeting space: Individual meeting rooms are
elegant, and stocked with plenty of state-of-the-art technology.
Another big bonus: lots of natural light.
Comfort zones: Who needs bedtime chocolates
when you can have a pet goldfish? All guests get the chance to name
and bond with their very own complimentary goldfish (bowl and food
provided, of course) for the duration of their stay
Other comforting touches include nightly scratch-and-win lottery
tickets and plenty of Tootsie Pops and Pixy Stix candy.
Added extras include complimentary evening wine tastings,
in-room free-weights and exercise equipment (for when you’re too
busy to make it to the gym) and a well-stocked “honor” bar
certainly a unique concept in the hotel chain industry.
“We want [W] to be a fun, hip brand. We believe we are creating a
brand that embodies an entire lifestyle,” says Brian Windle, vice
president of sales and marketing for W Hotels. “This gives us an
opportunity to attract the younger business traveler who is looking
for many of the same comforts they enjoy in their own homes.”
The PR machinery at the company defines the “W” as witty, warm,
welcoming and wonderful (please, feel free to add your own
thoughts). The company plans to open 14 Ws by next spring,
including two more in New York City the W Court and the W Tuscany,
both former Doral properties as well as one each in Atlanta, Los
Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Denver, Seattle, New
Orleans and Washington, D.C.
Guest rooms: Modern chic meets urban cool here.
Decor runs from earthy browns and deep blues to wine-colored
burgundies. Pottery Barn-style glass, cone-shaped lamps hang above
plump feather beds, black-and-white etchings are propped up against
walls (not hung), and a single-stem, fresh orchid graces the large
working desk. To maximize living space, bureaus are relegated to
Typical features include speakerphone capabilities, compact-disc
players, dataports for laptop hookups and high-speed, direct
Ethernet modem connections. And while a scanner/printer/photocopier
unit is standard hardware in the 15 percent designated business
travel rooms, the machines are provided on request for all guest
Meeting space: Meeting rooms go by names like
Canyon, Waterfall, Earth and Forest and are wired for high-tech
meetings. And if it’s chandeliered splendor you’re after, you’ve
come to the wrong ballroom. The W New York opts for laser
spotlights and softly lighted wall niches decorated with slender,
potted pussy willows.
Comfort zones: “Water Me,” reads the sign stuck
in the tiny patch of grass found in each guest room, next to an
old-fashioned long-spouted tin watering can (for those who miss out
on yard work because they travel so much). And if your patch
happens to die from a flash flood (careful with that water!),
housekeeping will be happy to replace it.
Other amenities include in-room snack bars stocked with
home-style comforts like a selection of microbrewery beer, trail
mixes and Gummy Bears candy.Where the Cool People
Is your group too hip for a standard hotel? The following Monaco
and W properties are now open or scheduled to debut in 1999.
HOTEL MONACO CHICAGO
Meeting space: 4,300 sq. ft.
(312) 960-8500; (800) 397-7661
Fax: (312) 960-1883
HOTEL MONACO DENVER
Meeting space: 4,000 sq. ft.
(303) 296-1717; (800) 397-5380
Fax: (303) 296-1818
HOTEL MONACO SAN FRANCISCO
Meeting space: 6,950 sq. ft.
(415) 292-0100; (800) 214-4220
Fax: (415) 292-0111
HOTEL MONACO SEATTLE
Meeting space: 6,040 sq. ft.
(206) 621-1770; (800) 945-2240
Fax: (206) 624-0060
W NEW YORK
Meeting space: 6,000 sq. ft.
(212) 755-1200; (877) 946-8357
Fax: (212) 319-8344
W ATLANTA AT PERIMETER CENTER
Meeting space: 10,000 sq. ft.
(770) 396-6800; (877) 946-8357
Fax: (770) 394-4805
Opening this year:
W SAN FRANCISCO
Meeting space: 9,500 sq. ft.
(415) 626-0777; (877) 946-8357
Fax: (415) 626-2830
Opening: Spring 1999
Meeting space: 10,000 sq. ft.
(206) 443-6548; (877) 946-8357
Fax: (206) 443-6251
Opening: Summer 1999
W NEW YORK - THE COURT
Meeting space: None
(212) 685-1100; (877) 946-8357
Fax: (212) 889-0287
Opening: June 1999
W NEW YORK - THE TUSCANY
Meeting space: None
(212) 686-1600; (877) 946-8357
Fax: (212) 779-7822
Opening: June 1999
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