A soak in a butler-drawn bubble bath, a place to park your RV, a couple of tickets to a hockey game—these are a few of the amenities that jittery hotels are bundling into packages designed to lure regional travelers.
"Clearly, the drop in air travel is hurting hotels in fly-to destinations," says Cathy Enz, executive director of the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell. "The good news is, hotels have come up with ways to attract more business."
Value packages are a dime a dozen, but many hotels are adding new twists. "Everyone's message is about cheap rates, so we asked ourselves, 'What can we do that's different?'" says Rob Delamater, vice president of creative services for Joie de Vivre hotels. His answer: Hotel Bijou in San Francisco rolled out Hit the Road! ($125, AAA and AARP members only, (800) 771-1022), a one-night package that includes RV parking and tickets to a movie.
Portland's Heathman Hotel spiced up its menu with the quirky Turn Up the Heat ($179-$209, (800) 551-0011): A Frisbee and tanning sessions at a spa mimic a beach vacation. Boise's Grove Hotel is coupling stays with tickets to concerts and hockey games at a nearby arena ($137-$150, (208) 333-8000).
But most often, hotels are pushing amenities aimed at helping guests relax. "Everyone has been going through a healing process since September 11—add to that a sluggish economy and a war," says Jim Metzger, general manager of the Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs. "Most people could use a day or two of pampering." The resort's De-stress package ($129, (800) 615-7805) features aromatherapy products, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and discounts on spa treatments.
The list of relaxing getaways is endless: Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe has a Sierra Relax package ($119-$139 per person, (800) 988-3724), which includes a $60 massage; the Comfort package at San Francisco's Hotel Monaco ($269-$369, (866) 622-5284) features massages at the wine hour. A butler-drawn bath is the highlight of Young at Heart at the Half Moon Bay Ritz-Carlton ($325, (650) 712-7000).
Valet parking has become a package staple and some hotels are taking the trend further. Guests who drive to the Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas and stay two nights get a gas rebate by presenting a receipt ($269-$299, (702) 567-1234). At Portland's 5th Avenue Suites, your car gets a free wash with Rub a Dub Dub . . . Put Your Car in Our Tub ($129, (800) 711-2971).
Are these pumped-up packages pleasing travelers? Courtly and Stephen Fetzko of Sacramento canceled their fall honeymoon to Scandinavia and took advantage of packages at three California luxury hotels. "We were disappointed that we had to cancel our original plans, but we had fun," Courtly says. "And we got awesome deals."
This article was first published in March 2002. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.