Andrew Freeman is a hotel whisperer. His San Francisco-based public relations and marketing company helps hostelries and restaurants identify current trends in the hospitality industry and capitalize on them. Like lobbies, for instance. You may have noticed that your check-in experience is becoming more like "check it out" as reception areas are transformed into cocktail lounge-like spaces and hotels cart off stuffy furniture in favor of a low-slung, modern pieces. Why? It's all about real estate, says Freeman. If a city's price-per-square-foot is steep "having a lovely entry lobby is getting the owner more bang for your buck," he says. "For guests it produces an arrival 'experience' – you can get in the action if you want to, or navigate away from it." Though Freeman's company typically advises deep-pocketed clients, he agreed to murmur in Traveler's ear about what's hot in hotel trends.
A Mixologist for your Marriott: Travelers know that hotels in Vegas and New York now have great restaurants, but there's still a lot of opportunity for mid-markets to have great restaurants as larger hotel chains have cottoned on to the fact they can keep guests on the property. Hotel brunches are going to get more creative, Freeman predicts. One example: The JW Marriott in San Francisco is introducing a "recovery" Sunday brunch featuring flights of Bloody Marys.
Value Now: During a recession you'll see hotels making more attempts to lure locals. "It's a 'staycation' in your own town. Look for happy hour programs and specials," Freeman says. In San Francisco, for example, Kimpton Hotels are doing complimentary evening wine hours. Also look for room rate add-ons, not price cuts. "Hotels are reluctant to cut prices, but may include a free room for the kids, a free meal or cooking classes for the price of a regular room."
Eco-menities: The freebies are going green, Freeman reports. "The organic movement has taken over amenities, even hotel soaps," he says. Companies like L'Occitane and Aveda are making green shampoos and body lotions in hotel sizes. And some hotels, like the Gaia Napa Valley in Napa, are 100% sustainable. Freeman says the W chain is making great strides in this area. "They're going what I call 'light green', which is green wherever possible." Like menus. "People don't realize it, but hotels print bundles of things. The W has been looking to print on recycled materials and with biodegradable inks."
Pet Peeve: "Charging for Wi-Fi drives me nuts," Freeman says. "There's going to be a backlash against paying $9.99 to get on the Internet. You say you're business friendly. I'm here on business. Make it friendly."
For more information on 2008 trends in restaurants and hotels visit Freeman's website.