Posted by: jowanderer | April 7, 2008

At Your Service

Thursday, Apr. 03, 2008

At Your Service


Staying at a luxury hotel has always had its perks. There are the welcome basket with fruit or even wine, the daily supply of mega-hundred-thread-count linens and, of course, the services of the concierge–the in-house fixer who’s adept at getting seats to sold-out shows and tables at totally booked restaurants. But now the concierge concept is being extended to a broader range of specialized services, and stays are getting even sweeter.

Hotels are coming up with new ways–from babysitting pets to personally delivering handmade soaps–to show how extra-hospitable they can be. New England’s Taj Boston, for example, not only has fireplaces in many of its rooms but also has a fireplace butler who helps guests customize the aroma and effects of their fire with woods that they choose from a menu. “It is a sign of the times,” says Sara-ann Kasner, founder of the National Concierge Association. “Everyone wants to be pampered. What used to be a fun amenity for the wealthy has become a trend for average clientele.”

But it isn’t just boutique hotels like the Taj Boston that are adding these services. Well-known chains like the Westin Hotels & Resorts have also started offering them. “It is all about being unique,” says Cheryl Seeley, a running concierge at Pennsylvania’s Westin Convention Center, Pittsburgh, who leads jogs around the city and provides maps of routes along which travelers can sightsee during their exercise. In a market with growth at the high end, hotels are constantly devising ways to stand out. Here’s how four are doing it:

PET CONCIERGE Jim Cameron, 42 The Milestone Hotel, London Duties: Consults on food and bedding for guests’ pets; arranges for walks The fun part: “Caring for a celebrity’s poodle who would jump off the suite balcony onto a beanbag.”

SOAP STEWARD Ana Cueto, 29 The Tides Riviera Maya Resort, Mexico Duties: Advises guests on the hotel’s handmade soaps The fun part: Recommending bathing options for couples seeking a romantic night

RUNNING COMPANION Cheryl Seeley, 40 The Westin Convention Center, Pittsburgh Duties: Leads runs around the city and provides maps of exercise routes The fun part: Giving guests a way to exercise while sightseeing

FIREPLACE BUTLER Matthew Ryan, 27 Taj Boston Duties: Customizes fireplaces with woods selected from a menu The fun part: Helping guests relax in a cozy environment. “Some guests will stay in their rooms all night and sit by the fire.”


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