Move over celebrity chefs; hoteliers are the new celebs du jour. It’s not clear what’s fuelling the trend, but one thing’s certain — big-name stars are gravitating toward the hotel industry. In recent months, film mogul Francis Ford Coppola bought property in Belize and carved out a luxury getaway; singer Olivia Newton John purchased a spa in her native Australia; and Robert De Niro spent $50 million to open the 88-room Greenwich Hotel in New York’s Tribeca neighbourhood. A host of other A-listers own hotels, too: John Malkovich, Andre Agassi, Bono, Elizabeth Hurley, Robert Redford and Michael Douglas. Whether they do it purely for investment, or use it as yet another avenue to promote their personal brand, celebrity hoteliers are indicative of the rising “cool” factor of an industry once considered conservative.
This surging interest in hotels comes at a time when diversification is the norm. Not a day goes by that we don’t hear about a new breed of hotel emerging or hotels introducing a unique service to entice guests. Consider an upcoming venture by Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts: according to a recent report in Hotels magazine, the brand recently announced the Four Seasons Ocean Residences — 112 private homes aboard a 720-foot, 13-deck cruise liner — which will travel the globe, stopping at historic cities and remote hideaways in 2010.
But private residences, cruising hotels and eco-adventure lodges are more than just places to sleep; they’re part of the traveller experience. And there are variations to suit every guest’s personality. If you’re a design aficionado, you can stay in a hotel that puts a premium on design; if music is your passion, you can check in to a hotel where music paraphernalia fills the guest rooms; or, if all you really want is a deluxe sleeping experience, you can opt for a hotel where sanctuary-like rooms are made for hibernating. Kimpton Hotels recently introduced its Tranquility Suite at the Hotel Monaco Chicago, featuring a fabric-covered padded door, a wall-mounted stone fountain, a soothing sound machine, a towel warmer and massage rollers. There’s even a reading nook overlooking the Chicago River. Not surprisingly, the same hotel also features a rock ’n’ roll room. The suite’s aptly named: Party like a Rock Star.
Ironically, in an age of rampant branding, where customers find comfort in knowing what to expect from a certain brand, hoteliers are also striving for distinction by offering the unexpected. For example, De Niro’s fledging New York hotel boasts that none of its 88 rooms are alike. Thirteen suites include saunas and/or fireplaces. And the hotel has a list of unique amenities. It offers: in-room check in, daily newspaper delivery from a guest’s hometown, and it will stock in-room refrigerators with a guest’s culinary cravings. In addition, the hotel’s 1,000-square-foot fitness area sports cutting-edge equipment and personal trainers. Welcome to today’s über cool hotel world.