When we travel we seek out unique experiences that will stay with us long after we've arrived back home.
As beacons for their destinations, hotels are putting lots of thought into what they can uniquely provide to make their guests stays memorable. Today, VIP experiences that were once available only to the most rich and famous visitors, are becoming available to all.
And location is becoming central to hotel branding: where you are staying should be a reflection of the larger destination. Here are a few hotels with unique concierge services that are in perfect harmony with their local culture and surroundings.
The Benjamin, New York City
One of our favourite midtown Manhattan hotels is The Benjamin. With the help of a sleep concierge, guests can choose from among 13 pillows from water-filled to buckwheat. Uniquely, The Benjamin guarantees you'll sleep as well as you do at home or the night's on them, and to ensure you do, they provide lavender sprays, pre-bed massages and milk and cookies.
Auberge de Sedona
Guests can explore the stunning trails of Red Rock Country through the hotel's Red Rock Hiking Concierge. The Concierge, an expert in the area, provides maps based on your fitness levels, desired length of time hiking, and specific red rock formations you would like to see. They can also provide Red Rock Passes, arrange a picnic lunch to be ready for your adventure or recommend a local trail guide to take you out on the trails.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
Yes, that is her title: Tequila Goddess. Deservedly so, as Danielle Griffin of La Hacienda restaurant at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is an expert when it comes to all things tequila. She is one of seven in the world to earn an individual diploma from Mexico's Tequila Regulatory Council (the only institution to verify and certify the compliance of Tequila with the Mexican Official Standard). This "Award T" accreditation, similar to a sommelier, enables her to provide guests and fellow La Hacienda staff with more in-depth knowledge of this special spirit and the assurance that the restaurant's unique selection of more than 130 tequilas are all certified. She conducts regular classes and artisan tastings of this lively spirit and is on hand to provide guests with recommendations, tips and a wealth of agave knowledge.
The Fairmont Orchid
Decades ago, visitors to the Hawaiian Islands were intrigued by the aloha, charm and warm hospitality of the Waikiki Beachboys. Their cultural knowledge, ocean skills and storytelling talents are legendary. This tradition, and the spirit of old Hawai'i, thrives at The Fairmont Orchid through the resort's Beachboys program. Beachboys lead kayaking and snorkeling adventures right off the hotel's white sand beach, teach local and Hawaiian shoreline fishing techniques from an outrigger canoe and love to show novice surfers how to Hang-10.
The James, Chicago
At The James Chicago for a one-time fee of $75, the hotel will furnish your guestroom with amenities including a size-appropriate organic doggie bed, food and water bowls, and provide feeders for hungry pets at the entrance of the hotel, plus a variety of nylon collars and leashes and plush toys. The James also offers "Burke Barks Bites" from renowned chef David Burke in their in-room pet dining program curated with Burke's trademark menu items. Dogs can choose from filet mignon, gourmet doggie treats and cow hooves, and cats can choose from poached salmon, salmon tartare tower and grilled chicken paillard with liver snaps.
Fairmont Pacific Rim
Looking to pop that fabulous question? Do it with the help of Fairmont Pacific Rim's Engagement Concierge. Designed to help you create the perfect setting, one of the Pacific Rim's Proposal Coordinators will assist you with planning the perfect activities in and around Vancouver (from picnics to helicopter rides!) leading up to the big moment, and even arrange for someone to marry you on the spot. Packages starting at $240.
Setting the technology bar high, OPUS Vancouver presents its guests with a Virtual Concierge with the addition of customized v2 iPads in every room. The only hotel in Canada to offer v2 iPads in every room, OPUS Vancouver offers a fresh spin on the typical hotel iPad platform. A number of fan favorite apps and web links are loaded on each iPad 2, then further decked out to reflect the personality of one of the hotel's five lifestyle concierge muses, pointing out their favorite places to shop, dine, exercise, relax and more.
La Valencia Hotel, San Diego
Located in one of the world's craft beer capitals, San Diego's La Valencia Hotel offers guests an official Beer Concierge. Tanya Schmidt, La Valencia's certified Cicerone, utilizes her expertise and knowledge to provide guests with insight on beer styles and service, brewing techniques and food pairing experiences.
Fairmont Vancouver Airport
All guests' fish stories are safe with The Fairmont Vancouver Airport as are all the prize catches with the hotel's unique Fish Valets. When anglers arrive at the airport from their favorite fishing destination, they are picked up and whisked away to the hotel, where their fish will be kept in pristine condition until their flight home. Guests can be assured that their "Big One" is properly stored in a 575 cubic foot fish freezer kept at -15 degrees celsius on the Departures level of the hotel. It's not that unusual to see a 100 lb. halibut come through the door and find its way for a chilly overnight stay. The valets never tire of hearing stories about that "big catch" or "the one that got away", and guests who are in the know make sure to ask for Executive Chef Kamal Silva's signature recipes for Seared Halibut with Warm Fingerling Potato Salad and Wild Salmon with Fresh Herbed Risotto.
Vanderbilt Grace, Newport, RI
A mansion hotel, Vanderbilt Grace in Newport, Rhode Island is making sure their guests feel right at home by offering the Bespoke by Grace concierge service. Bespoke enables guests to tailor each stay in advance, making it uniquely theirs by indicating specific preferences prior to arriving to the boutique property. Guests can choose from the fragrance they want in their room, the type of pillow on their bed, to the items they prefer to be stocked in the amenity bar.
Fairmont Queen Elizabeth
As Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth's Chocolatière in Montreal, Carole Proulx has a passion for Valrhona Grand Cru chocolate and admits to needing her daily dose. She appreciates the creativity and freedom her work allows her and continuously strives to create the finest truffles with lasting taste, intense and aromatic flavors. Available throughout the hotel's outlets, including the legendary Beaver Club restaurant and the Gourmandise Boutique, her exclusive truffles and chocolate showpieces are always in high demand. A few of her most popular creations are chocolate milk truffle with Québec maple liqueur, chocolate-covered caramels with fleur de sel and sugar-free dark chocolate squares with creamy ganache.