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Building a New Luxury Hotel Room Requires A Demonstration
 Guest Room that Receives Months of Tweaking

By Heather Newman, Detroit Free PressMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jun. 5, 2007- Today is the first day you can reserve a room at the MGM Grand's permanent Detroit hotel, which opens in October. The rooms will feature luxurious touches -- and a luxury price tag that starts at $299 a night and tops out around $2,500.

An exclusive tour through demonstration rooms designed to look like the new hotel's facilities is a peek at the high-end accommodations all the casinos are likely to offer visitors. The MGM is the first of Detroit's three casinos to open up hotel reservations.

Goose down comforters and pillows are swathed in 300-thread-count linens, a 42-inch high-definition flat-panel plasma television is standard in every room. Plush carpets lead into stone bathrooms that take up almost a quarter of a standard room's 435 square feet.

"We're really positioning this to be the true luxury offering in downtown Detroit," said John Hutar, vice president of hotel operations for the casino.

The demonstration rooms are the result of months of tweaking, as products were put in and taken out, colors changed and brand names swapped. Open a nondescript metal door in the parking garage and there it is: a short (but accurate) section of hallway, with doors on either side leading to rooms that are exactly like the real thing will be.

"Before we made 400 copies of our rooms, we thought we'd have a laboratory," Hutar said.

Karen Weathersby, a 56-year-old facility cleaner from Dearborn Heights, and Paula Green, a 59-year-old lead attendant from Detroit, work in housekeeping and have handled many of the changes in the rooms' setup.

"That's my second home," Weathersby joked, adding that she doesn't remember any more how many times she's had to make up the rooms in different ways, but that "it goes past my two hands."

Thanks to the pair, you won't find comforters that stretch all the way to the floor, for example -- too hard to clean under and too easy to trip over.

Some room highlights:

--Taupe, honey, putty and chocolate colors, punctuated with bright spots: here a salmon-colored patterned setee at the foot of the bed, there a dark cranberry couch with light lime green accent pillows.

The dark wood furniture sets off the lighter and brighter tones throughout the room.

Subtle technological features are built in:

--The telephones have touch screens that allow you to order room service or schedule a wake-up call. The mirror over the double-sink bathroom vanity has a seamlessly embedded 15-inch television screen. A dock for an MP3 player awaits on the nightstand, and motion sensors (combined with the electronic key lock) tell housekeeping when you're in so they don't bother you with nonpriority deliveries.

Unlocking your door automatically turns on soft interior lights, which can be controlled with five different settings of brightness. Wired and wireless Internet will be available in every room, and power outlets are thoughtfully at tabletop height above the desk (for a laptop) and a nightstand (for your cell phone) "so you're not crawling on the ground and fishing through extension cables," Hutar said.

An electronic button at the door sets your room to Do Not Disturb or sends a request that it be made up directly to housekeeping.

The hotel hasn't forgotten about traditional luxury.

--The beds are double-sided Serta pillowtop mattresses, and the comforters are enclosed in a linen-white duvet outlined in two narrow stripes of dark brown embroidery.

They're piled with pillows, including one bright mauve-red body pillow accent.

The headboards and the accent on the vanity in the bathroom are striped zebrawood (the headboard is trimmed with mahogany), and the honey-and-charcoal solid colored wallpapers have subtle, touchable textures.

The bathroom is a confection of frosted glass that sets apart the shower (with its double showerheads, including one rain-style from the ceiling) and the water closet. In single-bed rooms, a panel of colored glass lit by a small sconce offers peek-a-boo hints of movement between the shower and the room beyond.

The stone floors and vanity are lit by small sconces that look like candle flames inside ice cubes and can be set to act as soft night lights.

Small bathroom touches are designed to appeal specifically to women: the double vanity, a lighted makeup mirror, couches whose height is designed to be comfortable for both sexes. With a new spa in the hotel, "we want them to come here for therapy," Hutar said.

There will be a separate valet entrance for hotel guests and a guest-only "living room" where customers can relax in front of a long fireplace or take advantage of concierge services. Retail stores near the casino entrance will feature high-end accessories, jewelry and shoes for men and women.

The casino hopes that the high-end accommodations will attract out of town visitors -- even those that are just barely out of town.

"We're now a local market," Hutar said. "We want to expand and grow into something more regional. Even in our backyard there are people that don't think of Detroit as a destination."

The hotel will have 30,000 square feet of convention space and 400 rooms, including more than 50 suites, an unusually high number in the industry.

In the suites, all positioned at the rounded corners of the building, an elliptical wall will separate the sleeping and sitting areas -- rooms in which the sleeping area faces the view are called luxury corner suites; the rooms with the sitting area facing the view are called executive corner suites -- this will help people trying to make reservations. hn

The rate card: Standard rooms -- a single king or a double queen, which features two milk chocolate leather chairs instead of the couch -- start at $299 a night. Corner suites run $499 and penthouse suites range from $900 to $2,500 a night.

Rooms will range from the 4th to the 18th floor (with no unlucky No. 13 -- this is a casino, after all). For

For reservations: 888-646-4487.

Contact HEATHER NEWMAN at 313-223-3336 or hnewman@freepress.com.

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To see more of the Detroit Free Press, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.freep.com

Copyright (c) 2007, Detroit Free Press

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