|By Robert Cole, The Kansas City Star,
Mo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 28, 2007 - The $15 million restoration of the InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza hotel will bring a fresh look to a popular destination that debuted as the AlamedaPlaza in 1972.
A remodeling of all the hotel's 366 guest rooms and public spaces, including the Oak Room restaurant and the Oak Bar, is scheduled for completion in November.
The new design will be different from the institutional, cookie-cutter look of many big-box properties, said Bruce Gehring, the hotel's director of sales and marketing.
"You'll know you're in a luxurious product when you walk into the room," Gehring said.
Creating intimacy in stylish guest rooms is increasingly important to hotel operators trying to attract discriminating travelers.
Duvets and roll pillows are being added to bedding packages. Marble baths and glass-enclosed showers have become standard features at some upscale properties.
Local executives are eager to throw serious bucks at new amenities to grab their share of a growing market. The industry has made a sharp turnaround since the declines it suffered after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that dramatically slowed travel.
Kansas City's accommodated room demand, the number of rooms sold, increased 6 percent in July compared with the same period last year, according to Smith Travel Research, an independent industry monitor.
Numerous independent owners and hotel groups, including Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., are adding smaller boutique hotels in major cities to lure urbane, well-heeled travelers looking for unique, personalized service.
Although boutiques only represent a small fraction in the marketplace, the demand for sleek, minimalist spaces is increasing. Catering to affluent, urbane travelers could mean a big payoff. The global reach for boutiques alone could easily exceed $5 billion, according to industry estimates.
But large hotels, which typically thrive on corporate meetings, banquets and wedding receptions, also have been leaders in rolling out uniquely designed in-room amenities.
Westin Hotels & Resorts introduced its signature Heavenly Bed about five years ago because its chief executive officer wanted to provide the most comfortable bed in the industry, said Rick Wing, director of sales and marketing at Kansas City's Westin Crown Center Hotel.
Sheraton Hotels & Resorts and Radisson Hotel & Resorts offer their trademark beds and related accessories for sale, either online or at retail stores. Downtown Kansas City's Radisson Hotel & Suites added the Radisson bedding package to its king rooms and suites in 2006.
Hotels are also redesigning their interiors to include destination bars to attract travelers as well as local patrons.
The Doubletree Hotel Overland Park-Corporate Woods, for example, is adding the Trofi Bar to complement its full-service Trofi Restaurant.
Despite its 20 meeting rooms, 29,000 square feet of meeting and entertainment space, and hundreds of remodeled guest rooms, service may be the InterContinental's key amenity.
Gehring said the hotel will emphasize its concierge services so guests can experience a beautiful hotel and be close to the Country Club Plaza's restaurants and galleries.
"We're big enough to contain the meeting business we have," he said, "yet small enough to provide the intimate customized service that the traveler expects."
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