Hotels are hoping to lure guests with quirky and unexpected amenities
As the competition toughens for hotel reservations, it’s no longer enough to simply be pet friendly or offer free WiFi. The best hotels are now in the business of surprising and delighting their guests with unexpected touches – some of which are downright unusual.
For example, there’s a hotel in New York offering a concierge who directs guests to local graffiti hotspots. Elsewhere, there’s doggie room service, and another hotel has rooms that respond to voice commands.
Curious where to find the weird and wonderful welcome? These five hotels offer odd and unexpected bonuses for their guests.
New York: Graffiti concierge
The graffiti concierge program at Hotel Indigo Lower East Side offers a curated walking tour of some of the best local street art, updated monthly.
Manhattan’s Lower East Side offers a rich and changing landscape of artwork, from tiny tags and portraits to murals that cover the entire sides of buildings.
Chef concierge Christian Ribeiro leads the program, scouting the neighbourhood regularly to update the map he uses to guide visitors to iconic and trending hot spots. It’s all as part of the hotel’s “mission to connect guest with the neighbourhood,” he says, “to feel inspired and connected.”
Ribeiro says guests are surprised with the size and prevalence of the local street art. His favorite artists include Chico and Invader, who is known for his trademark mosaic 8-bit designs (his muses include Pac-Man).
The hotel also incorporates street art inside, with a mural by noted Puerto Rican artist Lee Quiñones on the lobby ceiling and a painted horse statue by Mr. Brainwash.
Saddle up for a street art adventure
Mont-Tremblant, Quebec: The most dog-friendly hotel on the planet
Many hotels are pet-friendly nowadays, but few go out of their way like Quebec’s Domaine Summum, or as a fellow travel writer referred to it, “the most dog-friendly hotel on the planet.” Turns out, the reputation is well deserved.
The boutique resort is welcome to all animals, regardless of size. “We just recently had a couple stay here with their dog, cat and rabbit,” says Shell Spillenaar (her official title: “little dog”). “We have also had a guest who brought a bird.”
Who’s a good hotel guest? You are! Yes you are!
When guests want to leave their room, Spillenaar says the staff will take the guest’s dogs out for a walk and a bathroom break free of charge. Dogs can also roam more than 200 acres of forest and trails off-leash.
A doggie room service menu includes cheeseburger and sweet potato fries and homemade bacon and cheese pizza, delivered to your room.
“Another big draw here that guests love is our ‘staff’ of six Bernese Mountain Dogs,” says Spillenaar. “The first question when guests arrive is, ‘Can we meet the staff?’”
Austin: Rockstar for a day
If you’ve always harbored dreams of rocking the stage, the Westin Austin Downtown can make that happen for you with the Guitar Rockstar package.
Guests who select the two-day add-on package arrive to find a guitar placed in their hotel room for the duration of their stay. Guitar lessons are arranged on the hotel’s rooftop overlooking the Austin skyline.
Make like a prima donna on tour and demand an axe worthy of a rockstar (like this Gibson SG).
These honorary rockstars receive VIP access to select venues or clubs, “and even an opportunity to play or simply appear on stage during a live concert,” says head concierge Dave Dart.
This Westin location pays homage to Austin’s brand as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” It faces legendary blues joint, Antone’s Nightclub, and also features guitar-centric decor throughout the lobby and hotel rooms.
“We built this package as a way for guests to not only experience this great and kooky Austin culture we fondly call ‘weird,’ but also to become a part of it,” Dart says.
We see what you did there, Westin Austin Downtown lobby motif
Boston: Voice-controlled hotel rooms
Travellers to the tech-rich enclave surrounding Aloft Boston Seaport can control their room’s lighting, temperature and entertainment system using their voice or a touch screen – conversing with a familiar voice, namely Apple’s Siri interface.
“Voice activation is something that’s becoming more and more prevalent,” says Eric Marlo, general brand manager for Aloft Hotels. “We’re happy we’re able to lead that charge.”
Guests of these rooms can access their iTunes music libraries to back up their shower singing, while also enjoying four customized room lighting schemes. Meanwhile, Siri functions as a surrogate concierge, advising guests on a good sushi restaurant or local museum. [Billy has plenty to suggest around the neighbourhood, too! – ed.]
One recent hotel guest woke up in the middle of the night and found his room too cold, so he just asked Siri to increase the room temperature a bit. “There’s no getting up in the middle of the night stumbling about in your freezing room to change the thermostat,” Marlo says.
Ottawa: Drink like an NHLer
Brookstreet Hotel in Ottawa’s west end happens to be where most of the National Hockey League visiting teams stay when they’re in town. It’s also a hotel where guests can pre-order a craft beer package for their room, which includes three cans of local craft beer from Ottawa-area breweries.
One of the beers including in the package might be from Big Rig Brewery, a local craft beer favorite, co-owned by former Ottawa Senators defenceman Chris Phillips, or Kichesippi Beer Co., a local brewery named after the Algonquin word for the Ottawa River, says Jantine Van Kregten, director of communications for Ottawa Tourism.
Some of Kichesippi’s beers, as you may encounter in your room at the Brookstreet
“The craft beer market in Ottawa is booming,” says Sharon Ravnas, marketing manager for Brookstreet, who noted that a number of local craft beers are also available on tap in the hotel bar. “This package was a way for our guests to enjoy local craft beers in the comfort of their room.”