by Sarah J.F. Braley | January 01, 2013
Like great chocolates with delicious salted caramel inside, a number of top-notch resorts hold an inner surprise: a smaller upscale hotel with a private feel, whose guests have special privileges, along with access to the full amenities of the larger resort.

"I'm hearing more and more anecdotal stories about hotels installing them or planning VIP floors," Bjorn Hanson, dean of the Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University. "We're in a period of recovery where rate is more important than occupancy. With the focus on rate, hotels are looking to provide guests the opportunity to pay the most they are willing. One way is to have special areas in the hotel for guests who are not price-sensitive, and a second is to offer rooms, amenities or services for which some guests will pay more. Exclusivity, privacy and status are lumped into that second group."

"One size does not fit all," notes Michael Dominguez, senior vice president of sales for MGM Resorts International, which offers the innovative SkyLofts within the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, as well as that city's Signature at the MGM Grand, Hotel32 at the Monte Carlo and THEHotel at Mandalay Bay (rebranding this spring as the Delano). "We have a lot of corporations and associations that need to put space between their corporate leaders and VIPs from the rest of the audience, and this allows them to do so in a private, high-touch way. Skylofts also often accommodates corporate or incentive groups of 30 to 40 people."

In organizing trips for incentive groups, planners at Aimia (formerly Carlson Marketing) often look to the Cove at the Atlantis on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. "For one high-tech client, we used the Cove and the bigger property as well," says Kurt Paben, senior vice president of client services. "We had more than 2,000 guests, and we used the Cove for the 200 overachievers." As this plan was clearly communicated in the program rules up front, participants knew they were competing to win the trip in general and that the top tier would get to stay in the extra-special accommodations; those winners also got to stay longer -- six days vs. four for the rest of the group.

"You end up with the best of both worlds," says Paben. "You have that exclusive experience, but right outside your door are all the amenities that go with a much larger resort."

Following is a sampling of properties with smaller high-end hotels within.

Beach Village
Hotel Del Coronado
Coronado, Calif.

Beach Village at the Hotel Del CoronadoOn the outskirts of San Diego, the 368-room Hotel Del Coronado's Beach Village separates its guests from the rest with a gated enclave configured in a combined total of 78 one-, two- and three-bedroom cottages. "This is for the elite traveler who is looking for the absolute finest things, but can partake in all the amenities that the Hotel Del has to offer," says the property's director of sales, Cheryl Ferguson. The boutique hotel, which opened in 2007, took the place of seldom-used tennis courts right on the beach. "We see a lot of potential for incentives and for groups who want to have a very nice luxury experience for their VIPs," Ferguson notes.

With five exclusive pools, Beach Village allows groups that opt for a buy-out to gather in the evening for uninterrupted outdoor fun poolside. Vacant cottages can be used to accommodate a chef's dinner for 12 to 20 people or to host a secluded board meeting.

Private amenities here include a beach with cabanas and sandside refreshment service. Beach Village also has a separate arrivals area from the Hotel Del's registration, called the Windsor Club Cottage, with a dedicated concierge, a lounge and a breakfast area.

Meanwhile, a renovation of all of the Hotel Del Coronado's guest rooms was completed last April. Beach Village guests can opt to spend the evening at the main property's fine-dining restaurant, 1500 Ocean; or sip top vintages at the ENO wine bar, which features built-in cheese and chocolate cases, more than 2,800 bottles, and regular tasting and pairing classes. The property offers approximately 65,000 square feet of meeting space, along with a spa with 21 treatment rooms.