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Hotels in Atlanta Aim for Luxury Clientele; Rosewood to
 Have Butlers at the 128 room Mansion on Peachtree

By Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionMcClatchy-Tribune Business News

Aug. 19, 2006 - Think supple Egyptian cotton sheets, flat-panel TVs and marble tubs are the tops in luxury hotel living?

Pish!

How about a room that comes with its own "Mr. Belvedere"?

That's right. Ultra upscale brand Rosewood Hotels & Resorts plans to extend butler service to its guests when it opens in spring 2008 at the swank Mansion on Peachtree, a condo and hotel project on the corner of Peachtree and Stratford roads in Buckhead. An attentive attendant will be assigned to each of the hotel's 127 rooms.

"That is going to be a service standard that will be hard for others to compete with," said Bob Boulogne, Dallas-based Rosewood's chief operating officer. "It gives the business traveler or the family on vacation one person to take care of all of their needs during their stay."

Hotel companies are being forced to think big to capture the big bucks from the city's business elite and the multimillionaire athletes and music industry glitterati that are making Georgia's capital a favorite playground, hotel industry officials say.

Over the next two years, developers will add the Rosewood, a St. Regis in Buckhead and a W Hotel in Midtown to a luxury roster that already includes a W at the Perimeter, a Four Seasons in Midtown, an InterContinental Hotel in Buckhead and a Ritz-Carlton downtown and in Buckhead.

The reason for Atlanta's burgeoning high-life hotel scene is simple, said Ken Bernhardt, a marketing professor at Georgia State University. Luxury hotels make up 20 percent of the industry but make 60 percent of the profits.

"That has attracted more people to the high end of the market as they recognize the margins that can be attained," said Bernhardt, who also is a board member of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, the city's main tourism and convention organization.

Too, the demand for luxury hotel experiences is on the rise. Travelers who are not sensitive to price want to feel at home, said Mark Woodworth, executive vice president of PKF Consulting, an Atlanta firm that tracks the health of the hotel industry.

So luxury hotel suites now include living rooms, freestanding tubs and expensive toiletries.

But what really distinguishes the luxury hotels is service, Woodworth said. At a mainstream hotel, a staffer will give a guest directions to a conference room or a restroom. At a luxury hotel, the staffer will walk the guest to the destination, he said, "anticipating the guest's needs as opposed to reacting to them."

There is still room for more luxury hotels in Atlanta, Woodworth said. The demand for luxury is outstripping supply, which means other players like Mandarin or Peninsula hotels could enter the market.

The existing luxury hotels are upping the ante, too. The InterContinental, which is just 2 years old, already is renovating its rooms. So is the Four Seasons.

That hotel, the city's only five-star facility, also is adding a spa.

Mit Shah, who is reflagging the Sheraton Colony Square as a W, said he plans to spend $100,000 renovating each of the hotel's 467 rooms to make the Midtown property the chain's premier location. The changeover -- set to be finished by early 2008 -- will include a spa, restaurants and rooms with wow appeal, said Shah, president and chief executive officer of Noble Investment Group, an Atlanta-based hotel operator.

"W's are truly a scene," Shah said, explaining that the chain offers a premium relaxed atmosphere, rather than the white-glove finery of competitors.

While Rosewood will have the distinction of being the first to offer butlers to guests in Atlanta, the hotelier isn't the first to offer the service in Georgia.

The Cloister, the Sea Island luxury resort that played host in 2004 to the G-8 Summit, added butlers when it reopened this past spring after a $200 million renovation, said Kyle Jones, a spokeswoman for the hotel, owned by privately held Sea Island Resorts. The update also included Turkish rugs, antiques and lighting of the sort found in Paris and London.

Butlers, Jones said, are "an amenity that people enjoy."

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To see more of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.ajc.com.

Copyright (c) 2006, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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