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Exclusivity = Luxury

Club level exec lounges are a hot trend. Should you be in on it?

Thursday, December 06, 2012
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The balcony view from the Club Level Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch is understandably spectacular. In the summer and fall, the Gore Mountain Range near Beaver Creek, CO., explodes in colors of green and yellow. In the winter, snow dominates the landscape as skiers from around the world descend on the ski-in, ski-out resort.

Many of those skiers are guests of The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, and to be sure, the resort’s 42-room Club Level, that adds even more luxury and service to the 10-year-old property.

The “hotel within a hotel” concept at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, is familiar to luxury travelers who frequent Ritz-Carlton hotels and resorts, as well as other luxury brands such as Fairmont Hotels & Resorts that has Fairmont Gold floors and lounges and Hyatt Regency that has Regency club floors and lounges.

Exclusive club floors, said Clarence Mcleod, Corporate Director of Fairmont Gold for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, “allows you to maximize your rates, especially with business travelers who have a higher per diem.”

Club floors often are blocked off from other floors, they only be accessed with a private elevator key. At The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, the Club floor number isn’t even on the elevator panel. The Club floor rooms at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, are the same sizes as on other floors, but with some subtle upgrades. For example, the Bulgari line of skin care products are featured in the Club room versus the standard Ritz-Carlton line in rooms on the other floors.

It’s a subtle difference, but sometimes subtle differences are the most effective. Guests who stay on the Club floors and frequent the lounges are looking for something more than just the impersonal service and environment of an airline lounge at the airport. Club floors offer everything from check-in and check-out services to a business center to food service as much as five times per time. Drinks and snacks are available throughout the day and evening and specially trained concierges are available to provide assist with whatever needs guests might have.

Those services aren’t confined to guests that speak only English and Spanish. At The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, Club floor concierges speak a multitude of languages, including Chinese, Japanese and German.

A club floor lounge’s food and snack service also is an opportunity to show off its cuisine. For example, at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, more than 90 percent of products served on the Club level – from cheese to fruit to bottled water – are sourced from around the Bay area. That not only has an impact on the quality of the food but also on the guests who might want decide on dinner at the hotel’s Parallel 37 restaurant, so the lounge is generating additional revenue for the hotel.

The Regency Club at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa in San Antonio offers breakfast, snacks and beverages throughout the day and a hot appetizer in the evening. Rooms near the Regency Club lounge are premium-priced, but guests in any standard room can have access to the lounge for $150 per night per room.

“It definitely adds value for a family of four or five people,” said Bryan Niehaus, Guest Services Manager for the 500-room resort. “They can kind of go in and out throughout the day.”
It’s also a good revenue stream for the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa, which caters to a lot of families in the summer and over Spring Break - the two seasons of the year when the lounge is open.

“A lot of our guests want to know before the come if the club is open,” Niehaus said.

Perhaps even more than food and beverage service, the Club floor lounges offer that little (or a lot) extra personal service to guests.

At the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, whose 5,000 square-foot club lounge is the largest in the city, hotel manager Chuck Schuringa, said his club manager one time carried food from the hotel club lounge down two floors for a female guest who has to walk with crutches.

“Now she stays with us every time she comes to town,” Schuringa said.

Abdullah Vural, general manger of The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, said his club manager has been known to fill up the gas tanks of guests’ cars before they check out.

“It costs $20 to put gas in the car,” Vural said. “’A guest might be spending as much as $500 a night extra just to stay up there.”

The club floor guest, Vural said, “is my most valuable customer and most loyal” customer.

“Not that every guest isn’t valuable,” Vural said. “But (club floor guests) are the most engaged. And if you’re the most engaged, you spend more money.”
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